Entry Senior

Heavy Equipment Operator

Photo courtesy of Shell Canada

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

Work Activities
Applying Health and Safety Principles
Learning and following safety regulations.
Taking preventative measures to avoid potential hazards or obstructions, such as utility lines, other equipment, other workers or falling objects.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Adjusting handwheels and depressing pedals to control attachments, such as blades, buckets, scrapers or swing booms.
Coordinating machine actions with other activities.
Documenting/Recording Information
Keeping records of material or equipment usage and any problems encountered.
Monitor Processes, Materials or Surroundings
Monitoring operations to ensure that health and safety standards are met.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices or Equipment
Operating machines such as bulldozers, trench excavators, road graders or backhoes.
Loading and moving dirt, rocks, equipment or other materials using trucks, crawler tractors, power cranes, shovels, graders or related equipment.
Driving and maneuvering equipment equipped with blades in successive passes over working areas to remove topsoil, vegetation and rocks or to distribute and level the terrain.
Operating equipment to demolish or remove debris from roads or parking lots.
Attention to Detail
Operation and Control
Operation Monitoring
Equipment Maintenance
Equipment Selection
Career Path
  • Crane Operator
  • Earthworks Foreman
  • Equipment Supervisor
  • Equipment Trainer
  • Truck Driver
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Working Conditions
  • Field 2
    Field Visits
  • Steeringwheel
    Driving Required
  • Variable weather
    Inclement Weather
  • Road
    Remote Locations
  • Industrial excavator
    Active Machinery
  • Arrow
    Shift Work
  • Physical
    Physically Demanding
  • Heights
    Working from Heights
  • Variable weather
    Variable weather
  • Hazardous
    Hazardous Conditions
  • Overtime
    Some Overtime Required
Similar Jobs In Other Industries
Careers also exist in the following industries:
  • Construction of buildings (non-residential and residential)
  • Forestry and logging
  • Heavy and civil engineering construction
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Utilities, including renewable energy
Job Details

Job Category



Oil and gas services

Oil and gas services

Oil sands

Oil sands

Exploration and production

Exploration and production


7302, 7521

Qualifications + Experience


  • 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


  • 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)

Additional Requirements:

  • Ability to pass a pre-employment physical assessment and drug test