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Earthmoving plant operator

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Summary of occupation

Earthmoving plant operators drive and operate heavy machinery used to level, excavate, load and move earth, rock and other material. They ensure that the equipment they use is in working order, and manipulate the controls to direct and manoeuvre equipment. Depending on the kind of equipment they work with, earthmoving plant operators may also select or change attachments for particular jobs, smooth and compact dirt and rubble, and clean and repair the equipment. Earthmoving plant operators generally work in the construction or mining industries, though there may also be opportunities in other areas.

ANZSCO description: Earthmoving plant operators operate plants to excavate earth, ore and rock, break up pavement, road, rock and obstructions, move and load earth, rock and debris, and level, smooth and compact surfaces in construction and other projects.
Alternative names:
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A earthmoving plant operator needs:

  • an interest in machinery and industrial equipment
  • technical and practical skills
  • good concentration
  • problem-solving skills
  • physical fitness and stamina
  • a detailed and methodical approach to their work
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Working conditions

Earthmoving plant operators generally work on construction sites and mines. Conditions may be loud and dirty and operators may come into contact with hazardous equipment or materials. They may work regular hours, or may work in shifts including late nights, early mornings, and on weekends and public holidays, depending on the kind of equipment they operate. They may be on call in case of emergencies.

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Salary details

On average, earthmoving plant operators can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a earthmoving plant operator develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Earthmoving plant operators may specialise in operating one or two particular types of plant machinery, such as backhoes, bulldozers, excavators, graders, boggers, bobcats, road rollers, linemarkers or front-end loaders. The specific type and size of the machinery they use may vary depending on the industry they work in and the requirements of a particular job. Depending on the nature of their role they may also be required to wear safety equipment such as masks, gloves, boots, hard hats and high visibility clothing.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an earthmoving plant operator you usually need to complete a formal qualification in civil construction plant operations.

The Certificate III in Civil Construction Plant Operations is offered at TAFE Colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can also complete a traineeship. The mobile plant operator or civil construction plant operator traineeships usually take 24 months to complete.

To work as an earthmoving plant operator in Western Australia, you must obtain a High Risk Work License issued by WorkSafe.

Workers in the construction industry must undergo safety induction training and be issued with a Construction Induction Card (commonly known as a “white card”). In Western Australia, training is conducted by registered training organisations authorised by WorkSafe.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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