Earthmoving plant operator

What they do

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.

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.

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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become an earthmoving plant operator you usually need to gain a 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. Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and search on the My Skills website to find a registered provider near you.

You can also undertake a traineeship in plant operations (level 3). The traineeship usually takes 24 months to complete.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Required registration and licensing

To work as an earth moving plant operator in Western Australia, you will require training in safe work practices through your employer or through registered training organisation.   

Earth moving plant operators working in the construction industry must undergo safety induction training and be issued with a Construction Induction Training Card (commonly known as a "White Card"). In WA, training is conducted by registered training organisations authorised by WorkSafe.