Occupation Classes for Earthmoving Machinery

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (WHS Act) operators of earthmoving or particular crane (EPC) occupational classes are no longer required to be licensed to operate the following types of equipment:

  • front-end loader backhoe
  • bridge and gantry (remote control) crane
  • excavator
  • front-end loader
  • scraper
  • road roller
  • grader
  • skid steer loader
  • dozer

The WHS Act imposes duties on persons with management or control of a workplace ('Managers'), to ensure the health and safety of their workers. This applies to directors and license nominees of companies undertaking their own construction work.

While operators are no longer required to be licensed, Managers must ensure that all persons operating equipment are trained and competent.

Managers must ensure that operators:

  • receive adequate information, training and instructions and supervision
  • are competent
  • use the appropriate plant to minimise any risks to health and safety

While the training can be informal on the job training, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland encourages formal training and assessment through registered training organisations. Training must be undertaken prior to the plant being used and should be practical and suit the needs of workers.

Demonstrating the Operator's Competency

In determining whether an operator is competent to use the plant, Managers may refer to:

  • any previous certificates of competency issued under the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Regulation 2008
  • a statement of attainment in a previous Queensland Unit of competency or other nationally recognised qualification for the type of plant that they are operating
  • on the job training by an experienced and competent person which can be verified by logbooks or employer references

It is good practice for Managers to keep adequate evidence and records of competency in the event of incident.

Unlicensed Minors or Adults Operating Earthmoving Equipment

It is increasingly common for younger workers, who do not hold valid driving licences and have limited driving experience, to move vehicles and earthmoving machinery on site. While it is not necessary for minors to hold a valid driving licence, the same rules apply - all operators (including minors) must be trained and competent to operate the machinery.

Young workers often lack inexperience which may result in a reduced ability to identify hazards associated with the operation of earthmoving machinery or to understand the importance of following safe operating instructions.

Managers should ensure that unlicensed individuals receive in-depth practical and 'hands on' training to compensate for their lack of experience and knowledge.

If the machinery is required to be driven on the road, only an operator who holds a valid Queensland drivers licence of the relevant class and is trained and competent in the class of machinery must do so. The machine must also be road registered or hold a permit (or exemption) so as to allow the machine to be on the road.

Caution when Slinging a Load

A competent person is able to sling a load without the relevant licence in circumstances where there is no judgment required for slinging techniques or suitability and the condition of lifting gear as the following factors are predetermined:

  • the weight of the load to be lifted has been predetermined by a competent person
  • selection of the sling and slinging techniques for the load is predetermined by a competent person
  • the condition of lifting gear is predetermined by a competent person
  • the lifting points are predetermined by a competent person and marked on the load
  • the load is lifted within the view of the operator at the times
  • standard lifting procedures have been documented and signed-off by a competent person

In circumstances where the above factors are not met only a person with a high risk work dogging licence must be operate the EPC machinery.

Breach of Duties

In order to minimise any risk to health and safety, Managers should ensure that all operators have the necessary skills and competence.

Managers and workers who fail to comply with their health and safety duties under the WHS Act may be convicted of an offence. The WHS Act provides for 3 categories of offences depending on the degree of seriousness or culpability involved. The highest penalty under the WHS Act is $600,000 or 5 years jail for individuals conducting a business and up to $300,000 or 5 years jail for an individual such as a worker.