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What Licence Do I Need to Operate Excavators and Other Earth-Moving Equipment

SolutionPlantHire-What Licence Do I Need to Operate Excavators and Other Earth-Moving Equipment

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. A certification is no longer needed to operate an excavator and many other kinds of equipment formerly covered by the EPC, but that doesn’t mean you can just hop on and start digging. There’s several aspects you’ll need to consider, as both an operator and manager of a jobsite.

Management Responsibilities and PCBU

In the eyes of the law, 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 (PCBU) is ultimately responsible for what happens on the job site. For work operations that no longer require a license, they must still adhere to the following guidelines 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.

Since certification is no longer required, a lot of responsibility falls on the PCBU. Before using plant equipment, the PCBU should 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.

Testing competency of operators

While you don’t need a certification to operate an excavator, you will need to pass a competency test to work on a job site. The PCBU 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  • A previously issued certificate under the (now repealed) Workplace Health & Safety Regulation 2008.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    • a statement of attainment in the National Unit of Competency Conduct civil construction excavator operations (superseded)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, do not operate the plant. Instead, your employer may be able to provide onsite training. Keep a logbook of all the training you have conducted, as it’s valuable for future employment.

Do I need an Earthmoving or particular crane certification (EPC)?

Since the implementation of the Work Health & Safety Act 2011, an EPC certification is no longer required for the operation of the following plant and equipment:

  • Front-end loader backhoe (LB)
  • Bridge and gantry (remote control) crane (LBG)
  • Excavator (LE)
  • Front-end loader (LL)
  • Scraper (LP)
  • Road roller (LR)
  • Grader (LG)
  • Skid steer loader (LS)
  • Dozer (LZ).

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

Licence to Perform High Risk Work (LHRW)

The licence to perform High Risk Work applies to a number of industries and job types. Rigging, from safety nets and tilt slabs to guyed derricks and suspended scaffolds, requires the appropriate LHRW licence, as does the use of cranes, self erecting tower cranes and slewing mobile cranes of various capacities.

Do I need a licence to operate a forklift?

You still need to be certified to operate a forklift in Australia. You’ll want to look into the TLILIC2001 course as a starting point if you plan to pursue a career in forklift driving. If you plan to contract a fork lift driver, ensure they are competent and apply the same competency checks to the driver as you would other plant.

Training courses

While you might not need a licence to use an earthmover, there are a number of accredited courses that you can complete to learn best practice in operating excavators and other plants. These courses can also help make you more employable as you’ll have a more complete understanding of the various challenges and skillsets that come with operating earthmoving and load shifting plant. Check your local area for training companies that can help you become a better driver / operator.


  • Always test for the competency of a driver / operator before they start work.
  • Make sure guarding is securely mounted. SafeWork NSW recommends that guarding be an interlocking barrier that only allows access to the plant machinery when there is no risk.
  • Ensure plant is only used for the expressed purposes for which it is designed. Workplace accidents account for serious injury and deaths every year, many from improperly used equipment.
  • Test, inspect and repair plant equipment using only competent operators and always in accordance with instructions by the manufacturer.
  • Keep records: This includes purchase orders and invoicing, logbooks of usage and training, maintenance, alterations, upgrades and decommissioning of plant.

Appropriate licensing to ensure health and safety

It’s vitally important when managing a workplace that all the staff and drivers on the worksite are appropriately qualified and knowledgeable in regards to the equipment they are operating. Ensuring all workers know the relevant requirements for their particular equipment or role is a step to increasing the health and safety of any worksite, and lessening the potential for injury or death.

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