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Types of construction machine operators and their functions

Construction machine operators and their functions

As a construction machine operator, every lever you pull and each maneuver you make helps shape the future of our infrastructure. This career path is full of challenges and opportunities, including controlling excavators, commanding cranes, and more.

Learn about various construction machine operation jobs and how to begin your career in this field.

How to become a construction machine operator?

Construction machine operators operate heavy equipment and machinery used in building and infrastructure projects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 423,000 people are employed in the operating engineers and other construction equipment operators sector. The majority of these workers are in the highway, street, and bridge construction industry.

The construction machine operator job duties

Roles in machine operator construction involve:

  • Operating heavy machinery, such as excavators, bulldozers, cranes, and loaders, according to project requirements.
  • Following safety protocols and regulations to prevent accidents and injuries while operating machine.
  • Conducting routine inspections and maintenance on equipment to boost performance and longevity.
  • Transporting and maneuvering materials, debris, and equipment around construction sites safely and efficiently.
  • Helping with site preparation tasks such as grading, leveling, and clearing.
  • Troubleshooting machine issues and making necessary adjustments to minimize downtime and keep projects on schedule.

Different types of construction machine operator jobs

Here are several types of construction machine operators and the skills and duties each role requires:

1. Excavator operators

These professionals use equipment to dig trenches, excavate foundations, clear debris, and perform other earth-moving tasks. Excavator operators typically have three goals:

  1. Accurately maneuver machinery.
  2. Ensure workers strictly follow safety protocols.
  3. Maintain equipment in optimal condition.

You can commonly find this type of machinery worker on construction and road building, landscaping, and other job sites. If you are interested in becoming an excavator operator, you’ll need strong hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and the ability to work in outdoor environments. You’ll also need to be proficient in reading blueprints and understanding excavation plans.

2. Bulldozer operators

A bulldozer operator uses heavy machinery for precise grading and to comply with safety guidelines. Their primary duties include:

  • Grading and leveling terrain to prepare sites for construction.
  • Removing debris, rocks, and other obstructions from the work area.
  • Shaping and contouring the land according to blueprints and specifications.
  • Pushing soil, gravel, and other materials to create foundations, roads, and trenches.

A few machine operator skills you’ll need for this position include attention to detail, mechanical aptitude, physical stamina, and strong communication skills.

3. Crane operators

This machinery worker is tasked with operating equipment to lift and move materials, often working in construction, manufacturing, and shipping (where lifting and transporting heavy objects are common tasks). While their main expertise lies in maneuvering cranes to lift, lower, and position loads accurately, other responsibilities include:

  • Interpreting load charts.
  • Conducting pre-operational checks.
  • Adhering to safety protocols.

Crane operators ensure stability and balance when lifting heavy loads and prioritize the safety of personnel and property at construction sites. Skills such as hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness are essential, and it may be necessary to become certified through recognized crane operation training programs.

4. Loader operators

Loader operators control heavy machinery known as loaders to move materials such as soil, gravel, and debris. These machine operators play a critical role in industries such as construction, mining, and landscaping to ensure efficient workflow, maintain safety standards, and maximize productivity.

Equipped with necessary machinist skills, including mechanical aptitude and depth perception, these professionals:

  • Efficiently load and unload materials.
  • Transport materials within construction sites or other work areas.
  • Grade and level terrain to prepare sites for construction or landscaping.
  • Comply with safety protocols to prevent accidents and ensure a safe working environment.

5. Powered Industrial Truck (forklift) operators

Operators of powered industrial trucks, or forklifts, are responsible for:

  • Using a forklift to safely load and unload materials and goods from trucks, shelves, or storage areas.
  • Transporting materials within warehouses, distribution centers, or construction sites.
  • Stacking and organizing inventory in an efficient and orderly manner to maximize storage space and accessibility.
  • Conducting routine inspections and basic maintenance on the forklift to ensure proper functioning and safety.

Typically employed at warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, and construction sites, forklift operators must possess keen attention to detail, safety awareness, and the ability to work in fast-paced environments. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration requires employers to certify that forklift operators have been trained and evaluated for safe operations on jobsite equipment and the working conditions they will encounter.

How much can you earn as an entry-level machine operator?

If you’re just starting in the field, entry-level positions typically offer salaries ranging from $35,623 to $44,864. However, these figures go up as you gain experience and equip yourself with relevant machine operator skills. Experienced or specialized machinists can make anywhere from $47,553 to $60,998.

Kickstart career progress in construction machine operation

A career in construction machine operation gives you multiple pathways to consider, each offering opportunities for career advancement and growth in your machinist skills. By partnering with Employbridge, you gain access to resources and support to navigate your entry into the field. We offer flexible work options, tailored training programs, and connections to top employers in the industry.

Ready to take your career to new heights? Explore all of our job opportunities, or contact us today.

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