Back to School: Tips for Training Heavy Equipment Operators

Many construction equipment operators acquire their skills on the job, but formal apprenticeship programs provide more comprehensive training. Are you responsible for training your operators? Here’s what you need to know.

Construction equipment is more complicated to use than it was in the past. Operators now are responsible for setting up and inspecting the equipment, making adjustments, and performing some maintenance and minor repairs.

Add in the fact that operating heavy construction equipment can be dangerous, and training becomes a critical component to ensuring both productivity and safety at the construction jobsite. As with most machinery, accidents generally can be avoided by observing proper operating procedures and safety practices.

If you are responsible for training operators, here are a few options for your jobsite:

Formal Training

Formal training provides comprehensive skills. Some construction equipment operators train in formal operating engineer apprenticeship programs administered by union management committees of the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Associated General Contractors of America. Apprenticeship programs consist of at least three years, or 6,000 hours, of paid on-the-job training together with and 144 hours of related classroom instruction each year.

Private Vocational Schools

Private vocational schools offer instruction in the operation of certain types of construction equipment. A large amount of information can be learned in classrooms, but the greatest training is hands-on in this industry. The best training facilities have equipment on-site so that students can do the tasks.

On the Job

On the job, workers may start by operating light equipment under the guidance of an experienced operator and later they operate heavier equipment. Technologically advanced construction equipment with computerized controls and improved hydraulics and electronics requires more skill to operate. Operators of such equipment may need more training and some understanding of electronics. With more and more equipment being advanced, there is an advantage to hiring operators who are new to the field. They have had the opportunity to train on the new equipment and learn the new systems available.

Operator training should not stop once they are done with their program and have been on the job for so long. It needs to be an ongoing lesson to ensure they know how to use the newest equipment at the jobsite and how to be safe in all conditions.

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