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  3. Heavy Equipment Operator

Heavy Equipment Operator

NOC #73400, #72021

  • Environment Primarily outdoor work
  • Education High school diploma
  • Average salary $61,000 to $95,000

Career profile

Heavy equipment operators operate heavy equipment to excavate, grade and landscape earth or move materials and equipment. In the oil and natural 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.

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.

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 truck.
  • 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 hauler operators operate electric and diesel trucks on oil sands mining sites 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 rights-of-way and haul ore at surface mining sites.
Exploration and production, Oil and gas services, Oil sands, Pipelines, Well site decommissioning, Construction, Turnaround and ongoing maintenance, Geothermal, Solar, Wind

In this occupation activities may include:

  • Learning and following safety regulations
  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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
  • Construction Safety Training System (CSTS)
  • Pipeline Construction Safety Training (PCST)
  • H2S Alive®
  • Ground disturbance

  • Travel likely required
  • Shiftwork/variable work hours
  • Primarily outdoor work
  • Physical work
  • Work away from home/in camps
  • Safety-sensitive environment
  • Low tolerance for risk

Not everyone has the ability to master these large pieces of machinery.

  • Mechanics
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Selecting equipment
  • Monitoring operations
  • Attention to detail
  • Building and construction
  • Public safety and security
  • Active listening
  • Document use
  • Controlling operations