Licence Guide for Construction Equipment Operators in Australia

Construction worker operator.

Operating heavy construction equipment, such as excavators, dozers, forklifts, and cranes is a difficult task. It requires skill and knowledge in manoeuvring the machinery, which has plenty of safety procedures to deal with. It also involves calculating loads to ensure they are appropriate for the equipment. Not only that, the operator is often responsible for ensuring the equipment runs smoothly by following maintenance protocols and schedules.

Work is generally completed in an outdoor area, sometimes with seasonal opportunities but usually with long hours and different weather conditions. Some operators have to work in remote areas. But whether it is in the city or rural locations, the construction equipment operator needs to follow safety procedures to lower the risk of accidents.

Due to the large size and incredible power of these pieces of equipment, the operator is required to be highly skilled and well trained. Some of the requirements of heavy equipment operators are:

  • Good hand, eye, and foot coordination
  • Vision acuity
  • With a quick reaction time
  • Excellent depth perception
  • Respectable physical stamina

Another essential requirement for construction equipment operators in Australia is to be licenced. Whilst it is possible to be hired even without a licence, many businesses and engineers are not keen on the safety risk of working with an unlicensed operator. Heavy equipment operator licence ensures that the operator knows what they are doing, thanks to their completed training and certification acquired.


Why a Licence is Necessary for Construction Equipment Operators

Like most professions, a licence is a requirement when applying for a job as a construction equipment operator in Australia. No one wants to go to a physician without a licence, no matter how skilled they may be. The same concept applies to an equipment operator. There’s always a safety risk on the job site, but it is often minimised when the hired operator is licenced.

The construction industry has rules in ensuring that workers, teams, equipment, and the environment are all safe and secure. Obtaining a licence means that the person is aware of the construction guidelines. The rules can sometimes change because of technology and other factors. Making sure that everyone on the team, including forklift and heavy equipment operators, is qualified and licenced can make compliance much easier for the whole project.


How to Obtain an Equipment Operator Licence

There are various requirements and rules to follow depending on the state or territory where you would like to operate construction equipment. In Western Australia, WorkSafe oversees licencing procedures.

Here are the steps in becoming a licenced operator in WA:

  1. Finish training with a Registered Training Organisation.
  2. A WorkSafe Registered Assessor will evaluate the skills and progress of the trainee.
  3. Once training and assessment are both complete, the organisation where the training took place will provide instructions on how to apply for the necessary licence. Application requirements include a filled out application form, statement of attainment, primary and secondary proofs of identification, and the latest photograph, which should be taken within the last six months.
  4. In most cases, operating construction equipment requires a high-risk work licence. This category includes those who wish to work with cranes, forklifts, boilers, or scaffolds.
  5. Based on the assessor’s evaluation, the operator should lodge a licence application within 60 days following the results of the assessment.

Suppose the application submitted has been accepted but is still being processed. In that case, the applicant is allowed to start working whilst waiting for approval.

Once approved, the acquired licence allows the construction equipment operator to perform high-risk work anywhere in the country, even though it was issued in Western Australia. The licence will expire after five years and should be renewed right after. Unlike obtaining a licence for the first time, the operator is not allowed to perform any high-risk work upon the expiry of the licence. Renewal is required before starting any construction project.

In line with construction projects, some workers also perform demolition work. If a particular person is not licenced, they are not allowed to carry out any type of demolition work unless they are an employee of a licence holder in WA.

Excavator operator.


Other Things to Know about Construction Equipment Operator Licence

Private jobs typically do not require a licence for equipment operators. However, it is often impossible to get a job without such documentation. The Workplace Health and Safety Act was amended in 2011 to remove the mandatory requirement for tickets in operating an excavator. This piece of equipment is no longer deemed high risk, unlike working in confined spaces, dogging or rigging, and using machines like forklifts or cranes.

The same exception for licencing also applies to operators of the following types of construction equipment:

  • Dozer
  • Grader
  • Skid steer loader
  • Front end loader
  • Backhoe
  • Scraper

However, it does not mean a licence is not needed to prove an operator’s skill in working with an excavator. In the amendment, the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is responsible for mitigating the risk.

The PCBU, typically the site manager, has liability and the best way to absolve possible risks is to ensure that equipment operators on the site are all competent and licenced. As a result, many PCBUs enforce a requirement for the operator to produce documentation for their training and qualifications. In some instances, equipment operators should provide more certification.

The absence of legislation of the machine classes listed above is beneficial to operators and site managers. It allows companies to hire people they believe can operate the machinery for their projects. However, it also requires businesses, including site managers, to ensure that the workforce is managed and equipped with proper training. Doing so helps avoid issues, especially those related to the safety of the operator and other employees.

If you’re looking to work in the construction industry as an equipment operator, you should be aware that you don’t need to undergo months of training for the job. Licence is only required for high-risk operators. However, the industry is tough, and you will face tons of competition vying for the same job position. If you want to significantly increase your chances of getting hired, we advise you to put yourself through a training course and get certified.