Operating heavy machinery and equipment

  • Published: Sunday, 4 June 2017
  • Times read: 2920
Operating heavy machinery and equipment
Every year, thousands of workers who use heavy machinery and equipment, suffer horrific injuries in NSW workplaces.

Over the past three years alone, there have been more than 140,000 injuries in NSW workplaces as a result of using heavy equipment incorrectly. More than 5800 workers have been left permanently disabled and 121 have sadly died.

That is why it is imperative that operators and jobsite managers are fully competent and experienced when in control of heavy machinery.

In 2011, the Government introduced the Work Health & Safety Act, superseding existing legislation and making it much easier for workers to responsibly use different kinds of plant equipment.

As licensing was considered a highly restrictive form of regulation, it was decided by both industry and government at a national level that load shifting classes of plants would no longer require a licence, as they did not represent as high of a risk.

An EPC certification (Earthmoving or Particular Crane Certification) therefore is no longer needed to operate excavators, front-end loader backhoes, bridge and gantry (remote control) cranes, front-end loaders, scrapers, road rollers, graders, skid-steer loaders or dozers, however that is not to say that competency doesn’t apply and that you can just jump on a machine and start working away! As an operator and manager of a jobsite, there are several aspects you need to consider.


Lawfully, the safe and appropriate use of plant equipment in general falls into the roles of responsibility and competency. The person conducting a business or undertaking is ultimately responsible for what happens on the job site. For work operations that no longer require a licence, they must still adhere to the specific guidelines below to ensure job sites and workers are safe:

  • Operators receive adequate information, training, instruction and supervision
  • Operators are competent
  • Equipment is used appropriately to minimise risks to health and safety

In addition, since certification is no longer required, the person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that an operator knows:

  • How to operate the equipment, including the correct use of control measures
  • Who else is authorised to use the equipment
  • Maintenance requirements including safe shutdown, inspection, clean and repair


Whilst you don’t need a certificate to operate an excavator, you will need to pass a competency test to work on a job site. The person conducting a business or undertaking on your job site may look for the following when testing your ability to operate plant:

  • Logbooks of on-the-job training conducted by an operator skilled and experienced in the operation of that particular piece of equipment.
  • A previously issued certificate under the Workplace Health & Safety Regulation 2008.
  • A statement of attainment on one of the following:
    • National Unit of Competency Conduct civil construction excavator operations
    • A statement of attainment in the National Unit of Competency Conduct civil construction excavator operations (superseded)
    • An equivalent State operation certification
  • Ongoing assessment of competency through work review

If you lack the appropriate training or work history, you will not be allowed to operate the machinery.