What Licence Do I Need to Operate an Excavator?

Using an Excavator in Sydney, NSW, actually Australia wide does not require any form of licence due to the introduction of the WHS Act 2011.

In 2011, the Government introduced the Work Health & Safety Act, superseding existing legislation and making it much easier for workers to responsibly use different kinds of plant equipment. A certification is no longer needed to operate an excavator and many other kinds of equipment formerly covered by the EPC, but that doesn’t mean you can just hop on and start digging. There’s several aspects you’ll need to consider, as both an operator and manager of a jobsite.
Management Responsibilities and PCBUIn the eyes of the law, the safe and appropriate use of plant equipment in general falls into the roles of responsibility and competency. The Person conducting a business or undertaking(PCBU) is ultimately responsible for what happens on the job site. For work operations that no longer require a license, they must still adhere to the following guidelines to ensure job sites and workers are safe:

  • Operators receive adequate information, training, instruction and supervision.
  • Operators are competent.
  • Equipment is used appropriately to minimise risks to health and safety.

Since certification is no longer required, a lot of responsibility falls on the PCBU. Before using plant equipment, the PCBU should ensure that an operator knows:

  • How to operate the equipment, including the correct use of control measures.
  • Who else is authorised to use the equipment.
  • Maintenance requirements including safe shutdown, inspection, clean and repair.

Testing competency of operatorsWhile you don’t need a certification to operate an excavator, you will need to pass a competency test to work on a job site. The PCBU on your job site may look for the following when testing your ability to operate plant:

  • Logbooks of on-the-job training conducted by an operator skilled and experienced in the operation of that particular piece of equipment.
  • A previously issued certificate under the (now repealed) Workplace Health & Safety Regulation 2008.
  • A statement of attainment on one of the following:
    • National Unit of Competency Conduct civil construction excavator operations
    • a statement of attainment in the National Unit of Competency Conduct civil construction excavator operations (superseded)
    • An equivalent State operation certification.
  • Ongoing assessment of competency through work review.

If you lack the appropriate training or work history, do not operate the plant. Instead, your employer may be able to provide onsite training. 

You have certain legal responsibilities if you manage or operate machinery and equipment, ie plant.
​Every year, thousands of workers who use machinery and equipment (or plant, as it is commonly known) suffer horrific injuries in NSW workplaces.
Over the past four years there have been more than 160,000 injuries in NSW workplaces as a result of using plant incorrectly. More than 6000 workers were permanently disabled and 64 died.
Must do’sThere are specific laws about working with plant. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.
Some laws relate to designers of plant, some relate to manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers, while others are for owners, managers, supervisors and the like. In the end, only common sense prevails!

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