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Heavy Equipment Operator

Learn equipment maintenance, system operations and proper site management. Obtain safety skills and practical training in an industry workplace.

A man operates a large excavator at a construction site.
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.

You first get instruction on the general operating principals of diesel engines, electrical systems, drive systems and hydraulics, and safe work practices, as well as theory behind equipment operation, preventative maintenance and site management. You will also spend time on virtual simulators learning foundational skills for operation of heavy equipment.

Finally, you will spend several weeks practicing operating techniques at a mock construction site. Here you will practice the professionalism, responsibility and dedication required for work as an operator. You will spend time in and around excavators, backhoes, front-end loaders and bull dozers, and get exposed to actual site scenarios and construction plans in various stages of completion. The program concludes with a work term, where you complete your training in an industry workplace.

Work experience

  • Field experience is a mandatory credit course, providing the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills outside the classroom.
    • Opportunities are typically unpaid and last approximately 5 weeks.
  • Transportation, accommodations and other costs related to work experience courses 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.
  • This program places a high importance on providing you with skills and knowledge to work safely in industry. To prepare for employment, you participate in safety awareness courses.

Other info

  • Start dates and locations for this program are determined according to industry demand.
  • 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.

September 2024

Campus Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Strait Area Campus
Port Hawkesbury
Full time In person
Delivered in-person. Some courses may have online elements.
This program location has a multi-year waitlist. Contact Admissions for more information.

Admission requirements

Program requirements

  • Students will complete Forklift Safety Awareness training during their course of study.


Tuition amounts are for the 2024-25 academic year. Program costs and fees (textbooks, supplies, etc.) are additional.

Tuition (Domestic):
Tuition (International):

Tuition, fees and program costs

This program is not offered at regular NSCC tuition.

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. Graduates are involved in road and bridge construction, backhoe operation, bulldozing, loading and grading, dredging and heavy paving, excavating and much more.
  • Learn more about labour market information. View 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.

Recognizing prior learning / transfer credits
If you have previous learning (course, employment, etc...) that's relevant to your program, you may be able to apply to earn credit. Not all programs are eligible. Learn about our recognizing prior learning (RPL) process.

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 professionalism, 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 1000 - Introduction to WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems)
This course offers learners basic overview of WHMIS principles and establishes a solid foundation to support workplace-specific training on the safe storage and handling of controlled/hazardous products. Upon successful completion of the course, students receive basic WHMIS certification.

SAFE 1001 - Introduction to NS OH&S Act
This course offers students an introduction to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act of Nova Scotia, which is required by any person employed in a Nova Scotia workplace. This is a generic, introductory course that provides basic knowledge of the Act for students and is considered to be the basis from which more specific training can be given.

SAFE 1021 - Safety Basics – 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 - Safety Basics – Working at Heights
The student is introduced to hazards and responsibilities concerned with working at heights in the workplace. Guardrails, travel restraints, roof work, fall arrest components will be 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 1023 - Safety Basics – Lock-out Tag Out
Lock-out Tag Out introduces students to the hazards related to energized systems and procedures to ensure worker safety. Related legislation and risk management is discussed and the student 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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