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Program delivery update

To ensure we can safely offer the high-quality learning you expect, we've changed how many of our programs are delivered. Please view this program's delivery option(s) under "locations & availability". Learn more about how programs will be offered

Heavy Equipment Operator

Start date change: This program has been deferred to a later date to ensure it can be safely delivered under public health guidelines. Please view new start dates under "locations and availability".

Program Image
Start Date:
Typical Length:
15 Weeks
College Certificate

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This is an entry-level program for individuals who want to learn how to safely operate heavy equipment in a variety of industrial settings.

The program enables you to enter the workforce with all the safety training required in this field. The theory component is designed to deliver a comprehensive understanding of equipment maintenance, heavy equipment system operations and proper site management, emphasizing the importance of quality and safety in these areas.

The practical component is focused on operating techniques and practices and is conducted in an actual construction site atmosphere. It includes the operation of a minimum of four pieces of equipment, including excavators, backhoes, front-end loaders and bulldozers. The program concludes with a work term where you complete your training in an industry workplace.

Work experience

  • Field experience (work placement) is a mandatory credit course completed at the end of your program. It provides you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills outside of the classroom.
  • Opportunities are typically unpaid and last approximately 5 weeks.
  • Transportation, accommodations and other costs related to work placements are your responsibility.
  • For more information visit Work Experience Opportunities

Choose NSCC

  • You learn in an environment that is consistent with industry standards and builds the skills you need to meet the demands of employers.

Other info

  • This program is not offered at regular NSCC tuition.
  • Start dates and locations for this program are determined according to industry demand.
  • Additional skills and abilities, including math, reading and workplace skills, are essential for your success in Trades and Technology programs. See the Trades and Technology Preparation Checklist (PDF 23KB).
  • This program places a high importance on providing you with skills and knowledge to work safely in industry. You participate in a number of introductory safety awareness courses to prepare for employment.
  • Many employers in this industry require a current, official Criminal Record check as part of the hiring process. A conviction on your criminal record may impact your ability to secure employment.

March 2021

Campus Location Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Strait Area Campus/Online Port Hawkesbury Full time BlendedBlended
Complete your program through courses that combine online (scheduled), and on-campus learning.

Admission requirements

  • High School Graduation Diploma or equivalent.
    • International students – High school diploma equivalency and English language requirements vary by country. View details

Program requirements

  • Standard First Aid, CPR Level A
  • Forklift Awareness


Tuition is valid for the 2020-21 academic year. Program costs and fees (textbooks, supplies, etc.) are additional.

Tuition (Domestic):
Tuition (International):

Tuition, fees and program costs

In addition to annual tuition, there are program costs (books, tools, etc.) and student fees for college services, health and dental plans, your student association and parking.

View detailed program fees page(s). Please note that amounts on these pages are meant for planning purposes only. They don't represent final amounts owing.

Career options

  • Heavy construction workers are in demand across the country and abroad. Their services are required for everything from road and bridge construction, back hoe operation, bulldozing, loading and grading, dredging and heavy paving, to excavating and much, much more.
  • This is a good career opportunity for a reliable and responsible individual with a strong work ethic.
  • Learn more about labour market information – visit Career Options.

Courses may include

These are some of the courses offered in this program. It is not a complete list and courses are subject to change in advance of the academic year.

HEOP 7003 - Industrial Safety and Job Readiness
This course is designed to show the learners the need for strong safe work practices while operating or working around heavy equipment. The course content exposes learners to actual worksite hazard scenarios and analyses on procedures to prevent and/or correctly deal with these situations. Learners review the ethical and legal issues that they may encounter as a Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) and will also be introduced to the skills and knowledge required for obtaining employment in the field.

HEOP 7006 - Systems Theory
This course is designed to give learners the necessary understanding of the various systems related to modern heavy equipment and its operation. The course content will enable learners to have a basic, working knowledge of common hand tools, diesel engine operation, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, DC electrical systems along with the sequences to which they interact and control each other throughout their operation. Major emphasis is placed on preventive maintenance and the monitoring of these systems from the perspective of a Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO).

HEOP 7007 - Operations Theory
This course is designed to familiarize learners with the various types and components of modern heavy equipment. It will also help to identify key terms and definitions used commonly in this industry to assist in the complex building processes where construction operator’s work with numerous other trades to complete assigned tasks at scheduled intervals. The course content exposes learners to actual site scenarios and existing plans in several stages of completion. This section also enforces the need for operators to be aware of many necessary regulations and guidelines (e.g. separation distances) to reduce the risk of environmental and labour fines to the developer and employer.

HEOP 7008 - Operations Practical
This course is designed to familiarize learners in the hands-on safe operation of heavy equipment. In this component, learners will take their previous theoretical training and apply it in a practical, industry-like setting where all workplace rules, regulations and policies are strictly enforced. It will also help in the identification of the many key terms and definitions taught in the classroom. As learners are assisted in accomplishing the plans and theory, they will have a broader understanding of the responsibility and dedication necessary to become successful in this field. The course content exposes learners to actual site scenarios and existing plans in several stages of completion. This section also enforces the need for operators to be aware of many necessary regulations and guidelines.

HEOP 7009 - Work Experience
This course is designed to expose learners to the actual working industry and the many components of it. By working on actual job sites, they will see a variety of tasks and differing methods of operation. Onsite supervision is a major asset as learners will gain more practical experience and specific task instruction from the employers.

SAFE 1021 - Introduction to Hazard Identification
The learners are introduced to the types of hazards encountered in workplaces and the approach that should be followed when recommending and implementing appropriate controls. Two key elements of Hazard Identification are addressed: Hazard Assessment and Inspection. The Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act is discussed. The course material is to be infused throughout the curriculum and may be delivered in the classroom, shop or other opportunity as designed and developed by the instructor.

SAFE 1022 - Introduction to Fall Arrest and Protection
The learner is introduced to fall protection, fall prevention and fall arrest concepts and responsibilities at the workplace. Guardrails, travel restraints, roof work, fall arrest components will be discussed and the learner will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the use of selected equipment. The course material is to be infused throughout the curriculum and may be delivered in the classroom, shop or other opportunity as designed and developed by the instructor.

SAFE 1023 - Introduction to Lock-out Tag Out
Lock-out Tag Out introduces the learner to the hazards related to energized systems and procedures to ensure worker safety. Related legislation and risk management is discussed and the learner is exposed to the various types of lock-out devices. The course material is to be infused throughout the curriculum and may be delivered in the classroom, shop or other opportunity as designed and developed by the instructor.

SAFE 1250 - Trenching Hazard Awareness
This course provides an overview of trenching hazards, and outlines safe work practices and procedures associated with trenching.

SAFE 1270 - Transportation of Dangerous Goods
In this course learners develop an awareness of practices associated with the transportation of dangerous goods, with reference to federal and provincial regulations, key stakeholder responsibilities, and relevant documentation and labelling.

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