About This Career
Heavy Equipment Operators operate heavy equipment to excavate, grade and landscape earth or move materials and equipment. In the oil and gas industry, heavy equipment is used to build and maintain oilfield roads, wellpads and pipeline right-of-ways, as well as assist in oil sands mining and reclamation.
Some Heavy Equipment Operators work with several types of equipment while others may choose to specialize. The typical roles in this occupation include:
- Bulldozer Operators operate crawler-tractors equipped with large front blades to move obstacles and with back rippers to tear up terrain. They clear and level dirt, sand, rock and gravel on construction and mining sites, as well as push other equipment.
- Backhoe Operators or Excavators use rubber-tired or track equipment to dig holes, trenches and ditches. They load, scoop and dump heavy materials, vibrate and break rock, back-fill excavations and level slopes.
- Front-end Loader or Power Shovel Operators operate rubber-tired or tracked equipment with movable arms and tilting buckets. They pick up heavy loads of earth, rock, sand, gravel, ore or snow, and dump material into piles, excavations or trucks.
- Grader Operators control the height and angle of grader blades to spread and level earth, sand, gravel, rock and snow. They carve ditches and slopes.
- Heavy Haul Truckers operate electric and diesel trucks on oil sands mining sites in order to transport bitumen.
- Motor Scraper or Buggy Operators operate the fastest shovel on wheels to scrape, load, dump and spread earth. They level work areas, haul soil for roads and right-of-ways and haul ore at surface mining sites.
Heavy Equipment Operators are also typically responsible for cleaning and lubricating equipment, refilling fluids and conducting pre-operational checks on equipment. They also perform minor repairs to equipment.
Education: A high school diploma (or equivalent) is typically required, in addition to the completion of a one- to two-year apprenticeship program or a combination of heavy equipment operating courses with on-the-job training.
Employment: This occupation is found in onshore environments and is typically employed in the oil sands, oil and gas services, and pipeline sectors of the oil and gas industry.
Example titles: Backhoe Operator, Bulldozer Operator, Excavator Operator, Front-end Loader Operator, Grader Operator, Heavy Haul Trucker, Motor Scraper Operator, Power Shovel Operator, Surface Mining Equipment Operator
- Earthworks Foreman
- Truck Driver
- Crane Operator
- Equipment Trainer
- Equipment Supervisor
Working from Heights
Some Overtime Required
- Construction of buildings (non-residential and residential)
- Heavy and civil engineering construction
- Utilities, including renewable energy
- Mining and quarrying
- Forestry and logging
Oil and gas services
- High School Diploma (or equivalent)
- Trade certification is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
- Internal company certification may be required by some employers
- Standard and emergency first aid
- H2S Alive
- Ground Disturbance
- Construction Safety Training System (CSTS)
- Pipeline Construction Safety Training
- Completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program is required to become a certified tradesperson. Another route into apprenticeship training is a pre-apprenticeship foundation program. In some provinces, both of these routes can begin in high school.
- Some employers will give preference to heavy equipment operators that can also drive the truck used to haul the heavy equipment to the worksite (Class 1 or 3 driver’s licence)
- Ability to pass a pre-employment physical assessment and drug test