Do You Need an Excavator Licence? Uncovering the Facts

Top down view of an excavator

Operating an excavator is an important job on any construction or excavation site. From moving earth and debris to digging trenches and holes for utilities and building foundations,  excavators are versatile machines that can handle many heavy-duty tasks.

However, you might be wondering whether or not you need a licence to operate this type of machinery. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about operating an excavator in accordance with the latest Australian Work Health and Safety laws so you can gain employment or and get working.

Do you need a licence to operate an excavator?


First things first, do you need a licence to operate an excavator? The short answer is no. But it’s not quite that simple.

While you no longer need to have a specific licence – like an EWP or High Risk Work Licence – to operate an excavator for typical excavation work in Australia, you will need to prove your competence in some way in order to gain employment as an operator.

This is because all businesses in Australia must comply with Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011, which states that responsibility for excavator licensing falls onto the business owner or site manager.

Essentially, it’s your boss’s job to ensure that you, as the operator, know how to handle the excavator safely and follow all the WHS regulations and proper handling procedures. This includes knowing how to safely load and move materials, how to use attachments and basic maintenance.

do you need an excavator licence, Do You Need an Excavator Licence? Uncovering the Facts, Equip-Safe

How can you prove your competence to operate an excavator?

Each job site will have its own way of assessing competence, but generally, they will require tangible evidence or a record of proof that you are capable of operating an excavator. This could include:

  • A previous excavator licence/ticket
  • A record of working and operating a heavy machine
  • A record of past excavator training, normally in the form of a nationally recognised statement of attainment (usually less than two years old)

If you don’t have any of these, you will need to undertake some training and get a certification from a nationally recognised training organisation (RTO).

Equip Safe’s one-day excavator training course – RIIMPO208F Operate support equipment – is a great place to start.

What if I’m using an excavator for non-commercial use?

If you’re using an excavator for non-commercial use on private property (such as your own land), you don’t need any certification or licence. This applies to DIY projects and the use of machinery like a mini excavator or standard excavator.
In these cases, the machine supplier will give you the run-down about safety and general operational use. But, if you employ someone to do the work for you, then they will need proof of adequate training on the machine.

What about High-Risk Work Licences?

It’s important to point out that there are certain activities that will still require a high-risk work licence (HRWL). These include scaffolding, dogging and rigging, as well as the operation of certain types of cranes and hoists, EWP booms, forklifts, boilers, steam turbines and stackers.

Book your excavator training course today

The laws and regulations around excavator operation can be a little confusing, but the good news is that you don’t need a licence to operate an excavator.
Of course, you’ll need to prove your competence in some way, and certain activities may still require a high-risk work licence.

If you’re unsure of what qualifications or documentation you need to operate an excavator, it’s always best to have a chat with your employer or get in touch with the experienced team at Equip-Safe.

Learn more about our excavator training course or get in touch to learn more about our range of safety training courses.

Share this post:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
Share on print