Career Profile: Heavy Equipment Operator
As a Heavy Equipment Operator, you’ll operate large, expensive equipment such as backhoes, loaders, graders, dozers and excavators to build and maintain roads, bridges, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, buildings and other structures. You may also operate this equipment to excavate rock, ore or other materials from open-pit mines, strip mines, quarries or construction pits or to move, load, unload cargo or material. These are just a few out of the many opportunities that are available.
Your typical day may start with performing pre-operational checks to make sure the equipment is working properly and safely. Duties may also include regularly maintaining the track or rubber tire undercarriage, buckets and attachments, refilling the equipment and lubricating the components and attachments to prepare it for service. You may complete log sheets and reports when testing or maintaining the equipment.
Since safety is #1 in construction careers, you may have to wear Personal Protection Equipment or PPE and take special precautions to protect yourself and others from injury. You may even have to take safety training either through your company or from a construction safety training facility.
To prepare for a Heavy Equipment Operator career, you’ll need a minimum of a grade 10 education, but with competition getting stiffer for jobs, you’ll be better off if you finish high school. Certification varies based on where you live. In Quebec, it’s mandatory that you get certified as a journeyman or apprentice to work on a construction site, but in some provinces certification is voluntary. Some provinces may not have certification; and if this is the case where you live, you may be able to study as an apprentice through your local labour organization.
The typical work week is 40 hours per week (8 hours a day, Monday till Friday), but you may have to work overtime during the busy construction season. Heavy Equipment Operators make on average $24.00 per hour or $58,000 per year, but your salary depends on where you live, your experience and skills, and the employer.
The employment outlook is fair with job prospects increasing slightly over the next few years. Employment opportunities open up when operators retire, get promoted to management positions or become contractors. Operators are typically hired at heavy equipment contractors, public works departments and pipeline, logging, cargo-handling, mining and construction companies.
Before becoming a Heavy Equipment Operator, ask yourself …
• Can you operate heavy, industrial machinery?
• Can you work outside even when it’s icy, rainy, snowy, windy or very hot?
• Do you have good reading, writing, analytical and problem-solving skills?
• Are you an excellent communicator, able to listen and take direction from others? This is critical as you may have to use hand signals or radio communication to operate the equipment safely.
• Can you bend, stretch, kneel, stand, mount and dismount equipment easily?
• Do you have good eye-hand coordination?
• Are you mechanically inclined, able to maintain or check equipment?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, a heavy equipment operator career may be for you.
Giselle Mazurat is a resume writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She also writes technical and business content for government and private companies.
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