Excavator Operator Job Description

Excavator operators drive and control heavy construction equipment, such as bulldozers, forklifts, dump trucks, and hydraulic truck cranes. This job involves tasks such as ensuring the machinery is operated safely so as not to injure anyone or cause damage to buildings, making minor repairs when necessary, and recording a daily report of inventory and completed tasks. Excavator operators often work irregular schedules, as construction projects can take place around the clock or overnight. Most excavator operators work full-time. This job is well suited to people who are flexible yet organized, enjoy working as part of a team, are physically fit and have good stamina, and who are capable of adhering to health and safety policies and procedures.


Excavator Operator Duties and Responsibilities

The type of organization an excavator operator works for will determine the exact roles and responsibilities. Based on job listings we analyzed, an excavator operator’s duties typically involve:

Operating Heavy Equipment

One of the primary tasks of excavator operators is operating heavy equipment, ensuring that the operating safety policies and procedures are adhered to.

Maintaining Machinery

A key part of this job is to ensure that company equipment and any materials are well maintained, kept clean, and stored appropriately at the end of each day. This includes checking the filters and ensuring that equipment is greased to keep it working effectively.

Keeping Work Areas Clean

Excavator operators keep the work area as tidy as possible, and ensure the equipment is clean by collecting any scrap or excess materials, and disposing of refuse.

Filling Out Paperwork

Excavator operators ensure that any necessary work reports and documentation is prepared and filled out at the end of each day, and handed over to the supervisor for their approval. These may include providing recommendations for how to improve or maintain environmental performance.

Conforming to Safety Regulations

Excavator operators ensure that all health and safety regulations are maintained on the work site, observing and raising awareness to their colleagues of any potential problems.


Excavator Operators Skills and Qualifications

Excavator operators should have the physical strength and stamina to stand strenuous and potentially dangerous work environments, be able to work well as part of a team, and have good decision-making skills. Typically, employers will require a high school diploma, as well as the following abilities:

  • Mechanical skills Excavator operators need to have knowledge of how different types of machinery work, how to repair them, and how the different parts of the machine work together, so strong mechanical skills are important.
  • Flexibility Excavator operators work irregular hours, so they need to be flexible to work odd shifts or throughout the night.
  • Time management This job requires the ability to complete work projects in an efficient manner and to strict schedules, so applicants need to have good time management skills, and be organized.
  • Team work Excavator operators work closely with other team members and construction workers, so they need to be professional, polite, and have strong interpersonal skills.
  • Problem-solving abilities When mechanical problems or functional issues arise, excavator operators need to be able to troubleshoot the issue and find a solution, so they need to be good problem-solvers.


Excavator Operators Education and Training

The minimum requirement to become an excavator operator is a high school diploma, with much of the training for this role received on the job from experienced colleagues. It may be advantageous to take vocational training or courses in auto mechanics, as workers often perform maintenance on their equipment. Some schools include simulator training, so students can familiarize themselves with the equipment before operating the reach machinery.


Excavator Operators Salary and Outlook

The median annual salary for excavator operators is $46,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Excavator operators in the 10th percentile earn around $30,000 annually, while the highest paid earn close to $82,000 a year. Some companies offer packages that can reach up to $5,000 from bonus structures based on individual or group performances.
Level of experience impacts the pay level for this role, and around 60% of employers offer medical insurance as part of their benefits package. The BLS predicts that the growth rate for this sector is expected to grow by 12 percent through 2026.


Helpful Resources

We’ve collected some of the best resources to help you learn how to develop a career as an excavator operator.

Excavator Operator Training Manual – This useful guide includes easy to understand text, photographs, and illustrations to help readers comprehend the information more easily. It’s an ideal starting point for those new to operating heavy equipment, and can be beneficial to beginners and experienced excavator operators alike who want to develop their knowledge.

Heavy Equipment Operations Level One – A great trainee guide to operating heavy machinery, with a highly illustrated design, technical advice, and tips from industry experts. It also includes plenty of useful information for beginners to benefit from, as well as review questions. Some of the topics covered include heavy equipment safety, how to identify heavy equipment, basic operational techniques, and more.


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