Certifications & Licences Required to Operate Earth Moving Machinery


Over the last several years licencing requirements for earth moving machinery have changed. State, territory and federal governments have made efforts to make the licencing and certification process easier to understand and to navigate for business owners and potential employees. In fact, in 2011 the government brought in the Work Health & Safety Act which replaced the existing legislation from 2008. This new legislation made it much simpler for both workers and their employers to become properly certified and competent, and to understand their responsibilities when operating earth moving machinery and other mobile plant equipment. So, what’s changed? In this article we’ll cover the licencing and certification requirements for earth moving machinery in particular, and how that’s changed since the Work Health & Safety Act was established.



Since the Act came into place in 2011, a certification is no longer required to operate several types of equipment, including excavators, for example. There are still regulations in place which determine just who can operate this kind of machinery, of course, and under what conditions. Under the new legislation, responsibility for the safe operation of equipment ultimately lies with the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). This means that managers and business owners are responsible for ensuring that several conditions are met when it comes to operating earth moving equipment. These include:

– The operator must have appropriate information, training, instruction and supervision before and during the operation of the equipment

– The operator must know how to safely operate the machinery

– The operator and PCBU must be aware of who is authorised to use the equipment

– The operator and PCBU must be aware of maintenance requirements and safety guidelines (such as safe shutdown, inspection, cleaning and repairing of the equipment)

– The operator must be competent in the operation of the equipment

– The earth moving equipment must be used in the correct manner and appropriately, to minimise the risk to health and safety



Whilst certification and licencing were abolished for most earth moving machinery with the 2011 legislation introduction, the PCBU must still ensure the competency of their operators and must also be able to prove this competency. This means testing for competency of operators and keeping records of testing where appropriate. Depending on the job site in question and the activities being undertaken, the testing required for operators may vary. Typical competency testing for earth moving equipment may include:

– Previously issued certifications or licences which were superseded by the 2011 Act

– Records of on-the-job training and supervision, including logbooks

– Review of work on an ongoing basis

– A statement of attainment of National Unit of Competency for civil construction excavator operations


According to Safe Work Australia’s National Code of Practice – Excavation Work:

“A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the provision of any information, training, instruction and supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from the work carried out.

A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that information, training and instruction provided to a worker is suitable and adequate having regard to: „

– the nature of the work carried out by the worker „

– the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time of the information, training and instruction, and „

– the control measures implemented.

The training provided must be readily understandable by any person to whom it is provided. A person conducting a business or undertaking must not direct or allow a worker to carry out construction work unless the worker has successfully completed general construction induction training”



Earthmoving and particular crane certification (EPC) is no longer required for plant and equipment such as front-end loader backhoes, bridge and gantry, front-end loaders, scapers, graders, skid steers, dozers and more, since the 2011 Act’s introduction, as they were no longer considered to be ‘high risk’. A Licence to Perform High Risk Work (LHRW) is still needed, however, for operation of equipment in certain industries and within certain job types. Rigging and the use of certain cranes still requires LHRW certification, for example. Be sure to check with your relevant local legislating body for full details.


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