Well done on making the decision to join the best industry in Australia right now – construction! As infrastructure is a very lucrative industry, now is the time to begin your career as an excavator operator. Skilled and responsible excavator operators are always in high demand in Australia. Below we look at how you can make yourself super employable and ensure you always have a job.
When do I need an excavator licence?
When you are undertaking work in a private capacity there are no rules to say you require a licence to operate an excavator. And for commercial work there are no government regulations as such, but without any capability documentation it would be near impossible to get a job.
As operating an excavator is categorised as ‘low risk’, the Government amended the Workplace Health and Safety Act in 2011 to say that a ticket is no longer mandatory for operating an excavator. However, this does mean that you still need documentation to prove you can operate an excavator. Responsibility falls on the PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking), normally the site manager. The PCBU is responsible for mitigating risk and for ensuring operators are competent enough to avoid possible safety issues. So, the PCBU can enforce the requirement for documentation. After all, excavation in general is undoubtedly a dangerous task and operating heavy equipment requires skill.
So, should you put yourself through an excavator training course? It all comes down to how employable you want to be. For example, picture a large bustling site and the site manager has to choose between an excavator operator who will need to do a competency test before starting and an operator who has paperwork showing they have undertaken excavator training. Who do you think the PCBU would choose?
Having proof of formal training through an RTO like Aus Loadshifting or a ticket supplied from the previous legislation is the most trusted method for site managers to separate the highly skilled from the amateurs. The sites that have the highest standards pay the best and hire operators for the longest terms. So, if you want the top of the line jobs, you are best to upskill yourself and fine tune your resume with a certified excavator training course.
The on-site competency test
If you don’t already hold a ticket under the previous legislation (since the Government amended it in 2011) and if you have not completed a training course conducted by an RTO, then the PCBU will conduct a competency test to evaluate your skills at operating an excavator. You will need to pass this test before you can legally operate. The PCBU may also ask for other documentation such as logbooks of previous training, a previously issued certificate under the 2008 legislation or verification of a relevant qualification. You might also have to continually prove yourself in ongoing assessment.
If you are already a skilled excavator operator and do not require a course, it is still important that you obtain a Verification of Competency (VOC) to prove you can do the job. It just makes the process much easier for you and the site manager because it isn’t always feasible for the PCBU to test every operator on-site prior to working.
What is a VOC?
The VOC is a method of assessment that helps employers meet WHS (Workplace Health and Safety) requirements and proves that staff are competent to operate heavy equipment and perform the task.
A VOC does not require full training, but it gives you the opportunity to prove you are competent and safe in operating heavy machinery and have current skills and knowledge. Aus Loadshifting offers VOCs for excavators, skid steer loaders and loader backhoes.
Why excavator training pays off
Say you have two identical excavator machines doing the same job. After five years one shows a lot of wear and tear, has burned more fuel, and requires more repairs than the other. What could have caused such impacts? The answer is operator behaviour. As with cars and their drivers, the difference between a highly skilled and an amateur operator clearly shows in the condition of the excavator.
Let’s take a look at how the operator can impact the excavator’s operation and performance.
Fuel consumption – In order to maximise job site fuel efficiency, all operators should be trained on the excavator’s work modes. Many operators tend to select the highest setting regardless of the task. However, tasks can still be achieved on lower RPM. Running at 200 or 300 RPMs lower could save 10 percent in fuel consumption. Operators should be trained on the built-in fuel saving modes. Treating the machine daily with grease also creates less friction allowing for smoother movements and less fuel.
Wear and tear – Operators are encouraged to start each shift by checking filters and fluid levels and looking for damage or leaks. They should also ensure the rollers are free of debris so the rollers can turn freely. Again, ensure the machine is well greased to keep bearings, bushings and pins performing smoothly. Operators should be trained in alarm codes and maintenance reminders to avoid expensive repairs.
Idle times – By training operators to reduce idle time you can minimise maintenance costs and slow depreciation. A reduction in idle time can have a huge impact on the resale value of the excavator.
What are the risks of having untrained excavator operators?
Apart from the obvious fatal risks facing an untrained operator, there are other risks you should be aware of.
Ground conditions – When the ground is too wet it can lead to the equipment sliding or channels and trenches collapsing. Heavy rain often presents too high a risk.
Load capacity – The operator should never exceed the load capacity of the excavator. All heavy machinery has its limits, and to go over these could overbalance the machine or affect its performance.
Exclusion zone – The operator must be aware of the working exclusion zone surrounding the excavator.
Underground power cables – Operators must take care not to go near underground power cables. Their locations should always be marked out.
Ventilation – Fumes from the equipment can affect all workers and machine operators so it is important that the work site is not enclosed and that it has proper ventilation.
Refuelling – The excavator’s engine must be switched off while refuelling. When fuel is spilled onto a hot engine it can cause a fire.
Why choose Aus Loadshifting for your excavator training
Aus Loadshifting provides thorough training in excavator operations in Sydney. Completed either onsite at your workplace or at our training facility, our course involves theory and practical excavator training. While the average time for completing this course is two days, the time varies depending on each person’s skill set.
Our course involves:
- Planning and preparing
- Conducting machine pre-operational checks
- Operating the machine
- Lifting, carrying and placing materials
- Selecting, removing and fitting attachments
- Relocating the machine
- Carrying out machine operator maintenance
- Cleaning up
You will be assessed on your knowledge and driving performance and after satisfactory completion receive a ‘Statement of attainment’ and photo card. Your qualification will be registered in the national database. If you do not satisfactorily complete the assessment you will be provided support and further training before undergoing a reassessment.
To learn more about our certified excavator training program, contact us today.