Excavator Training 2017-04-10T12:28:33+00:00

Excavator Safety Training

safety training solutions

OSHA’s rules regarding excavator safety training can seem daunting. Let us help you get excavator certification training that meet’s OSHA’s compliance standards. Whether online, classroom or onsite training, we have programs that can meet your unique needs. Click an option above or contact us to speak with an expert about the best excavator training for your situation today.

In Canada? See our Canadian Training Kits or Canadian Online Training.
Need Spanish? See our Spanish Training Kits or Spanish Online Training.


Excavator Training Frequently Asked Questions

How often do I need excavator training?

OSHA requires excavator training for excavator operators–on that there is no question. Where confusion exists is how often operators need excavator  refresher training or recertification. Outside of the initial safety training class, it is common to see companies set recertification at every three years. We are one of them.  And here’s why:

As far as this 3-year excavator training certification goes, OSHA regulations are very specific when it comes to forklifts and a couple other pieces of equipment. However, on everything else they are not so clear. They just state the employer must regularly provide safety training for their aerial lift operators. Following industry best practices, we’ve adopted this 3-year term in order to help employers comply with the general standard of regularly providing and proving excavator training. Ultimately, it is up to the employer to determine how frequently their excavator operators need to be trained. Many of our customers require it more often, annually even. Others may stretch it out a bit. In working with OSHA, though, it is our experience that they like to see employers adopt the strictest standard when the regulations are not clear. For instance, we know of companies that didn’t train every three years and were reprimanded by OSHA for not offering additional training more often. It is not uncommon for OSHA to refer to the forklift standard as the pattern by which training should be carried out for other pieces of equipment. On a side note, OSHA is slowly but surely making training requirements specific for other pieces of equipment so there are no gray areas. Mobile cranes and aerial lifts, for instance, are all undergoing potential changes to the regulations that will reference training specifically.

So, with that in mind, we say excavator operators must be re-evaluated every three years to determine if they are still competent enough to operate. We also state that this every-three-year excavator evaluation is the maximum time that should be allowed to pass before an operator receives excavator recertification. According to OSHA, there are several instances that will require additional excavator training and observation before the three year period is up:

  • Excavator operator is observed in an accident or a near miss
  • Excavator operator received a poor evaluation or is observed driving in a dangerous manner
  • The excavator operator is assigned to drive a different type of excavator or the workplace has changed significantly enough to require additional excavator training (such as being transferred from operating a excavator used to hoist signs to aexcavator used for trimming trees).

I’ve received excavator training. Can I operate a backhoe loader?

Not necessarily. OSHA requires excavator operators to receive excavator training for each type of excavator. On this term, “type,” there is much confusion. Generally speaking, by “type” OSHA means 360 excavator vs. dragline excavator vs. compact diggers vs. backhoe loaders, etc. And because excavators vary by size and capacity, different sizes could also qualify as different types.

If you have received excavator training and have always operated a John Deere excavator, but then are asked to operate a CAT excavator, you should be just fine to operate under the same training certification received previously. Keep in mind though, controls can differ greatly from brand to brand, so in some cases you may need additional instruction or a quick refresher training to make sure you are clear on what each control does.

At the end of the day, if you were operating a backhoe loader and there was a backhoe loader accident and OSHA came to investigate only to discover that you had received training specific to 360 excavators but not backhoe loaders, then you’d be liable. You can’t really train too much.

I’ve operated excavators for 20 years. Do I need to take a class, a written exam, and a practical exam still? Or can I just take a written test?

No matter how long you’ve been on the job, OSHA requires excavator training, an excavator written exam, and a practical excavator evaluation. There is no way around it. This goes for other types of excavators too. The extent of the classroom excavator training can be adapted by the instructor according to student needs. The written exam proves mental competency and understanding of the safety principles taught. And the practical evaluation proves the excavator operator not only understands but is capable of operating the machine safely.

I received excavator training at a different job. Do I need to be trained again by my new employer?

This is a common question, especially among laborers-for-hire who may sub out from job to job. Technically, it is your current employer who is responsible for saying whether or not you have been trained specifically for the type of excavator and job. If you bring an excavator certificate or wallet card to your new employer, they do not have to accept it. It is their right to require you to take their own training class. This is because if there is an accident, they will likely be responsible and need to prove to OSHA that they trained you on excavator operations.

Can you explain excavator certification? Who can train, evaluate, and certify operators?

This, above all, causes a lot of confusion. Bottom line, OSHA states that employers are responsible to train their employees. Generally speaking, there are three ways they can do this:

In terms of using a 3rd party companies safety training materials (like our excavator training kits on CD or our excavator online training class) OSHA does not recognize one company over another. They simply state that ‘training needs to occur’ and ‘here are the things an excavator operator should be trained on.’

When we do live training or offer excavator training online, people often assume we are the ones certifying the trainees. This is not true for any training company. We are simply assisting the employer by providing live excavator training or the excavator training materials needed to help them excavator certify their employees.

How do I take the excavator practical evaluation if I take excavator training online?

The online excavator training class covers OSHA’s requirements for the classroom portion. Many employers prefer online training because they know exactly what excavator training the operator will receive. In live classes, the training sometimes varies. A written exam is included at the end of our online training courses. After the excavator class and exam are finished, you and your safety managers will have immediate access to a practical evaluation checklist. This can be printed off and used by your supervisor to help him or her evaluate you on the excavator. When done, they can sign it and file it with your exam. This will satisfy OSHA’s requirements for excavator certification.

Is it okay to rig a load to the bucket?

Most likely, yes. Most buckets have lifting eyes or other designated attachment points. If not, there are other approved ways of attaching chain slings. But you should always refer to your operator’s manual just to make sure and then follow any specific manufacturer instructions. Also, before lifting with an excavator, you need to inspect the machine, any attachments being used, and all rigging gear. Rigging gear needs to be load rated and have legible capacity tags. You also need to make sure the excavator capacity is rated to handle the weight of the load, including any dynamic forces brought on by wind or travel during a pick and carry, and that you use the appropriate load charts to plan the lift. Overloading the machine can seriously damage the machine and lead to excavator tip over. Remember that the capacity of an excavator will be highest when it is closest to the machine. Make sure the machine is on a stable surface, that any potential hazards or holes have been barricaded, and that you travel slowly. If you are lowering a trench shield into a trench stay back from the trench edge as far as possible. You also need to receive training specific to lifting a load, rigging, and excavator hand signals, as well as any mobile crane hand signals that apply. This training must also cover how to read and understand excavator load charts.

If I am using the excavator to hoist a load like a crane, does it fall under the OSHA crane standard? Do I need to receive rigger signalperson training?

According to OSHA 1926.1400, OSHA’s standard on Cranes and Derricks in Construction, which was updated in July 2014, “power shovels, excavators, wheel loaders, backhoes, loader backhoes, and track loaders” are excluded. “This machinery is also excluded when used with chains, slings or other rigging to lift suspended loads.”

However, there are some states that have stricter regulations and do treat excavators like cranes. Whether it is considered a crane or not, though, is a moot point. Employers are responsible for administering excavator training to their employees specific to the equipment and the job. That means if you are going to be using an excavator to hoist a load—like a trench shield—then you need to receive training regarding hoisting with the excavator, rigging, and signaling.

Is it okay to pick and carry a load with an excavator?

Yes, like RT Cranes and Crawler Cranes, an excavator is typically approved to pick and carry a load (refer to your operator’s manual to make sure). No matter the machine, though, moving with a load can be dangerous as it is susceptible to tip over. Always align the boom with the forward direction of the excavator and maintain this position when turning. Turn only when necessary, at the slowest speed possible, and at a wide turning radius. Keep the load as close the ground and as close to the excavator as possible. The use of taglines can help keep the load from swinging, thus affecting the stability and capacity. Never leave the cab with the load suspended and use a signalperson if lowering it into a trench beyond your line of sight.

My trainee scored 80% on the exam. Did he pass or fail?

Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not dictate what a passing score entails. That is ultimately up to the employer whose responsibility it is to certify, or authorize, their employee to operate an excavator. If you want to pass him at 80%, fine. But what if a question or two among the 20% missed could lead to an accident or death? Is it worth it? Our recommendation is that you always go over any missed questions with your trainees—even if they just missed one. Once they understand the principle missed, have them write their initials by the correct answer. That way, you are protecting them and those around them from potential accidents in the future.

What is an excavator?

An excavator is an industrial machine with a boom, stick, bucket, cab and track. They can be used in many ways, but are commonly seen digging up soil, concrete or other surfaces. They are also known as diggers, backhoes, trackhoes, 360 excavators, power shovels, dragline excavators, long reach excavators, and compact excavators.