While formal qualifications are no longer required to operate an excavator in Australia, registration or licencing is preferred by employers. This normally takes the form of ‘proof of competency’, which can be achieved in a few different ways.

Do I need an excavator ticket?

In the past, excavator operation had to fall in line with old safety legislation. However, all businesses in Australia now comply with the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011, which states that responsibility for excavator licensing falls onto the business owner or site manager.

In legal terms, the person responsible for the site is called a PCBU or a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking.’ Basically, this means that it’s your supervisor’s responsibility to ensure any heavy earthmoving plant on site, including excavators, is operated safely and with care.

It is the PCBU’s responsibility to ensure that operators like you are competent in handling the equipment, and that you’re aware of OH&S regulations, proper operating procedures, how to safely carry and load materials, fitting attachments and basic maintenance.

So, to work as an excavator operator on most sites in Sydney, Melbourne and other States, you don’t need a license – but you do need to prove you are competent and responsible enough to handle an excavator.

Do I need an excavator ticket?

Although comprehensive, lengthy courses like a Certificate III in Civil Construction Plant Operations contain training modules on how to operate an excavator, it’s often not necessary to do a full course if you only need your excavator ticket.

If you just want to get an excavator operator ticket, you simply need to prove that you are a competent operator.

So, although there is not an actual license that you need to apply for, you do need documentation to prove that you’re able to confidently drive and operate an excavator. This can be done via both formal and informal training.

You can:

  • Provide log books or records of previous on the job operation, proving that you have used this piece of equipment in the past
  • Undertake a hands-on assessment by the site manager or supervisor
  • Get a statement of attainment that covers the nationally recognised training module RIIMPO320F – Conduct civil construction excavator operations
  • Complete a State-based certification in this module, from a registered training organisation

Whichever method you choose, you’ll still need to verify your competency or skills by going through an assessment process. This is called a VOC (or Verification of Competency).

How much does an excavator ticket cost?

If you choose to purely get your VOC, this can be achieved in a few hours and can often be done on or off site. Because of the variables involved (like the type of equipment and location), it’s a good idea to get a quote from an RTO in your area.

However, to really understand the safety and operational aspects of operating earthmoving equipment, it’s worth doing a 2 or 3 day course.

Generally, accredited excavator ticket training costs around $500 – $1000 for a professionally presented course that covers both theory and practical elements. Often payment plans are available from registered training organisations, making the course more affordable.

On successful completion of 2 – 3 days training (and after passing an assessment), you will be issued with a Statement of Attainment and a wallet-sized plastic competency card. This is your proof that you are licensed and competently able to operate an excavator.

It’s important to note that when you’re on a job site, often the work won’t be confined to just excavators. If it’s likely that you will need to operate other earthmoving equipment like cranes or elevated work platforms, these machines are considered high risk and they do require separate licensing.

Why become a competent excavator operator?

According to research by the careers website Seek, excavator operators are generally satisfied with their jobs and earn a decent salary. Plus, getting accreditations for skills you may already have is a wise career move, with jobs for excavator operators projected to grow 7.4% over the next five years.

This means that if you’ve already got the skills, then confirming your competency to operate an excavator will stand you in good stead if you are looking to change jobs or advance your career in the future.

Find out more about our Verification of Competency courses here.