What Does a Heavy Equipment Operator Do?

Heavy Equipment Operators operate heavy equipment such as backhoes, loaders, graders, dozers and excavators used in the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, airports, gas and oil pipelines, tunnels, buildings and other structures as well as surface mining and quarrying activities. Some will specialize in one or more types of heavy equipment such as:

  • Heavy Equipment Operator: Excavator Operator (636B)
  • Heavy Equipment Operator: Dozer Operator (636C)
  • Heavy Equipment Operator: Tractor Loader Backhoe Operator (636A)

Job Related Skills, Interests and Values

  • working outdoors in appropriate safety and protective equipment
  • operating a variety of heavy equipment safely via hand signals, radio communication and using occupant safety devices
  • performing pre-operational checks of equipment as well as basic maintenance on track or rubber tire undercarriage, buckets and attachments; lubricating equipment components and attachments
  • completing and maintaining equipment log sheets and reports
  • performing site planning and set up by assessing job site conditions, and identifying or selecting appropriate attachments for the work to be done
  • acquiring and using a knowledge of Earthmoving fundamentals (soil characteristics, ground conditions, map reading), as well as relevant Health and Safety Acts, Municipal Codes & By-Laws, Natural Gas Regulations and Highway Traffic Act
  • working cooperatively with supervisors and co-workers
  • continuously learning about new techniques/equipment in order to operate safely while maintaining productivity

To view the Essential Skills necessary for someone to work in this occupation, click on the following link for NOC code 7421:


You may find additional information about  and applicable standards at the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) website - Construction sector link: www.collegeoftrades.ca/trades/training-standards1/construction.

What Preparation and Training Do You Need?

You should preferably have a secondary school diploma this is usually required by employers and unions today, but grade 10 is currently the legal minimum to be apprenticed in this trade under the Ontario College of Trades Apprenticeship Act (2009). Please note that minimum entry requirements to this and other trades are currently under review by the Ontario College of Trades. Completion of this apprenticeship as a Heavy Equipment Operator will take 2,260 hours and could include classes at community college or industry courses as well as on-the-job training before successfully writing an examination to obtain your Certificate. Some employers require internal company certification. 

What’s Your Future as a Heavy Equipment Operator?

Most Heavy Equipment Operators in Ontario work in the Construction sector, full-time, and may have to travel to job-sites away from home. Typical employers include:

  • Municipal governments
  • Highway and Heavy Construction firms
  • Primary Steel producers
  • Mining Companies
  • Logging Companies
  • Construction Site Maintenance firms
  • Quarry Companies
  • Building Construction firms

For additional information about this career, check out the construction sector website at: www.CareersInConstruction.ca.

Wage Rate

The wage rate in this field varies depending on the employer, the sector and experience in the occupation: in the range of $25-$34/hr depending on what geographic area you live in.


Ask Yourself: Is Working as a Heavy Equipment Operator For  You?

Do you enjoy working outdoors in all types of weather?

Yes     No

Do you have good reading, writing, analytical and problem-solving skills?

Yes     No

Do you enjoy maintaining and operating vehicles to ensure their safe and productive operation?

Yes     No

Are you able to bend, stretch, kneel, stand;  mount and dismount equipment and lift objects if required?

Yes     No

Are you interested in gaining knowledge of earthmoving fundamentals, soils and soils testing, soil compaction, land clearing and surveying?

Yes     No

Do you enjoy working in a team environment that may require overtime to meet production deadlines?

Yes     No

If you answered Yes to most of these questions, Heavy Equipment Operator May Be For You!

 You may also want to explore other careers that require similar interests and skills, such as:

  • Mobile Crane Operator
  • Tower Crane Operator
  • Construction Craftworker
  • Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic

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