A heavy equipment operator is a person who drives and manipulates the controls on various types of heavy machinery. This machinery is normally used at construction sites to move earth, construction and building materials and other heavy supplies. Equipment may include bulldozers, backhoes, excavators and cranes. The operator is expected to follow safety procedures as he maneuvers the equipment to carry out his job. He may be the sole equipment operator at the job site or part of a team.
The type of construction equipment a heavy equipment operator uses depends entirely on the nature of the job at hand. Each piece of equipment is built to most efficiently perform specific tasks common to the construction industry. Some of the equipment is small enough to be used inside warehouses or plants and is generally designed to move boxes and pallets. Larger equipment is customarily used outdoors to clear and grade land in preparation for construction.
Projects that frequently require the expertise of a heavy equipment operator can include public works projects or endeavors of privately owned companies. Public works jobs can often include building roads and bridges. Other publicly-funded projects regularly involve the construction of dams, levees, airport runways, power plants and municipal structures. The private ventures ordinarily include the construction of office buildings, retail stores, malls and industrial parks.
Heavy equipment operators use machines that can normally do the work of many men in half the time. The larger heavy equipment inventory often includes bulldozers, tractors, backhoes and loaders. This type of equipment is capable of digging trenches and creating valleys, hoisting thousands of pounds of construction materials, and grading acres of land to prepare it for building construction.
Smaller projects generally require equipment made for use inside large industrial or commercial buildings. This selection typically includes forklifts, cherry pickers and pallet jacks. Backhoes and trenchers are ordinarily available in sizes appropriate for jobs requiring less bulky and powerful heavy equipment.
A heavy equipment operator is generally required to be certified by local or regional agencies. Some are cross-trained and certified to operate several different equipment types. Others prefer to operate only one type of machine and only require periodic updates on their operating permit certifications.
Workers in this industry are frequently trained through either on-the-job training or a formal apprenticeship program offered by companies or unions. Some trade and technical schools offer paid training programs. It is important that employers hire fully-trained heavy equipment operators to comply with local and regional laws regarding job and employee safety.