Operating Engineers and Construction Equipment Operators
On the Job
Operating engineers and construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials.
Did you know that in ancient Egypt, workers used olive oil to help move the enormous stones that make up the great pyramids? They used the oil as a lubricant. Moving the stones was no small feat. Their average weight was over two tons and the builders had only very simple machines to help them. In addition, there are over two million stones in the Great Pyramid alone! If the operating engineers and construction equipment operators then had the machines we have now, perhaps the Great Pyramid would have reached much higher than its original height of 481 feet.Operating engineers and construction equipment operators generally use machines to move objects short distances, such as around a factory or construction site. This may sound simple, but many tasks must be completed before they begin work. They must talk to clients and supervisors and study plans and diagrams. Next, they must make sure all hazards are removed. Utility and power lines must be located and flagged to make sure they don't accidentally cut them. Operators must also make sure that other workers won't be in the way when they begin to use their equipment.
Operator and engineers use a variety of equipment to smooth or grade the ground. They may also dump, remove, or spread rock and earth. To run the machines, they move hand levers and foot pedals. They also operate switches and turn dials. Operating engineers and construction equipment operators may set up and inspect equipment. They often attach hoses, belts, and other equipment to tractors. They make adjustments to blades, buckets, and booms. They use stakes and guidelines on the ground to help them line up their equipment.
Operating engineers and construction equipment operators often do maintenance and make minor repairs on their machines. They also clean and service their equipment. Operators may keep records of the materials they moved. They may do some manual loading and unloading.
Operating engineers and construction equipment operators are unique because they know how to operate several different types of equipment, such as cranes, bulldozers, and hoists. Bulldozer operators run tractors equipped with attachments, such as blades and cable winches. They dig out dirt, trees, and rocks in order to level the ground. Crane and tower operators lift and move materials using booms and cables supported by towers. They watch for hand signals or listen to radioed instructions from other workers. Hoist and winch operators lift and pull loads with their equipment. In addition to operating these machines, some engineers operate valves on air compressors or pumps at construction sites.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Learn and follow safety regulations. Avoid hazards such as utility lines and falling objects.
- Talk to clients and study plans and diagrams before beginning work.
- Set up and inspect equipment.
- Control equipment by moving foot pedals or levers.
- Use equipment to remove, dump, spread, or grade earth and rock.
- Operate switches and valves on equipment.
- Send signals to operators and assistants to guide movement of equipment.
- Make adjustments and minor repairs to equipment when necessary.
- Clean and service equipment.
- Keep records of materials moved.
- Test air to make sure there aren't explosive conditions, especially when working in small spaces.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Control machines and processes.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Handle and move objects.
- Repair and maintain mechanical equipment.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Evaluate information against standards.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social interaction. They interact with other operators and supervisors to ensure safety and receive directions.
- Communicate on a daily basis through face-to-face discussions. They also communicate by telephone, but less frequently.
- Often work as part of a team.
- Are greatly responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Are responsible for the work done by other operators and engineers.
- Usually work outdoors at construction sites.
- Are often exposed to whole body vibration when operating equipment.
- Are regularly exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable.
- Often wear protective clothing, such as hard hats and gloves.
- Are often exposed to contaminants.
- Are daily exposed to very hot and or very cold temperatures because they work outdoors.
- Are exposed to hazardous equipment, such as cranes, bulldozers, and hoists, on a daily basis.
- May have to work in very bright or very dim lighting, depending on the weather.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous situations where they may experience minor cuts or burns.
- Usually work inside equipment in which they may not be protected from the weather.
- May work physically close to other workers.
- Must pace their work by the speed of the equipment or machinery.
- Must be exact in their work. This is to ensure the safety of others.
- Repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- Make some decisions independently, but usually seek feedback before operating machinery.
- Set some of their daily tasks and goals independently.
- Must meet daily and weekly deadlines.
- May not work for periods of time due to poor weather conditions or low construction activity.
- May work more than 40 hours per week to catch up after bad weather.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements while operating levers and foot pedals.
- Sit while operating machines.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Use muscles to jump, sprint, or throw objects.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.