Yukon WorkFutures

Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

NOC 7521 / RANK 4


What They Do

Heavy equipment operators use large machines in the construction and maintenance of various work sites. They work for construction companies, contractors, public works departments, mines and logging companies.

A Day in the Life


Listen to A Day in the Life

Main Duties

Heavy equipment operators control equipment by moving levers, foot pedals and operating switches. They clean, lubricate and also conduct operational checks on equipment. They practice and observe safety procedures.

Heavy equipment operators may do all or some of the following tasks:

  • Bulldozer operators clear and level land and push other equipment to provide traction
  • Backhoe operators use equipment to dig trenches, load heavy materials, vibrate and break rock or concrete, back-fill excavations, and scoop and dump materials
  • Front-end loader operators pick up heavy loads and dump them in piles or into trucks
  • Grader operators spread and level earth, sand, gravel and rock at construction sites. They also regulate the height and angle of grader blades
  • Paver operators operate machines that lay, spread or compact surface materials in highway and road construction, or sand or oil road surfaces.
  • Power shovel operators use booms or cranes with a dipper handle that scoops up material and drops it into trucks or onto piles.
  • Sanitation truck drivers remove garbage and refuse, and dump loads at designated sites.
  • Street sweeper operators drive vehicles with rotating brushes to remove sand, litter and trash from streets, highways and parking lots.

Working Conditions

Heavy equipment operators should be ready to work in noisy, dusty and dirty environments in almost any kind of weather. Some operators may work in air-conditioned/heated and dust-controlled cabs. Those who operate excavating and grading equipment have to sit for long periods of time on vibrating or bouncing machinery. Hearing protection, special safety boots, gloves, goggles and hats are often required. Heavy equipment operators must have a good understanding of safety procedures.

These workers have different hours of work depending on their position. For example, a snow-removal operator may start clearing streets at three o'clock in the morning and work until the roads are clear. Those working for a government department may work an eight-hour day. During the long summer days, a bulldozer operator may have to put in considerable overtime and weekend work due to the short construction season. Some heavy equipment operators find work on a project-to-project basis and may have to travel away from home. They may have to live in a remote camp for long periods.

How Do I Get There

There are no standard education requirements for heavy equipment operators. They are often trained on the job.

Employers generally prefer to hire applicants who have a high school diploma. A Class 5 driver's licence is usually required. Applicants may be required to pass a medical exam and pre-employment drug-screening test.

These workers should be physically fit and able to adapt to rugged working conditions. They should be good with their hands and able to use computers. Ability in mechanical repairs and maintenance is helpful. Operators must be able to tolerate high noise levels. Employers look for people who are able to work without supervision and have good communications skills.

In general, a higher education level means a better chance of getting and keeping a job in these fields. Upgrading and short courses are available at Yukon College campuses throughout the territory and online.