Front end loader training has evolved over the past decade, moving away from formal licensing and placing more responsibility and trust into the PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking). A wave of nationally uniform legislation has overturned the former requirements that stipulated a front end loader operator acquire a front end loader license. As states no longer issue these specific licenses, the training responsibilities have fallen slightly from the operator to the manager, however there are still hurdles to be jumped for both the operator and the PCBU.
What has changed?
As the legislation passed by Workplace Health and Safety removed the need for an Earth moving or Particular Crane certificate as a prerequisite to operate a front end loader (or any EPC class of machinery) on site, the regulations now require that the PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) as well as the management or control of the plant must ensure that operators are competent to use the equipment.
Effectively shifting the requirements from the operator to the PCBU, but not entirely releasing the operator from their duty to learn the machine.
How does a PCBU determine if the operator is competent?
For the PCBU to determine a front end loader operator as competent, there are four ways outlined by the Queensland Government (these stipulations are applied across states as mostly uniform requirements and may slightly differ from state to state). The choice rests in the hands of the PCBU and can be exercised at his/her discretion.
The four primary methods are;
- a statement of attainment or other nationally recognised qualification – e.g. training provided by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO);
- training completed at an industry training school;
- on-the-job training;
- current relevant experience.
It is also relevant that the PCBU has determined that the operator has received adequate information and training for the complexity of the job, that the operator is supervised so that risks are minimised and that there is ongoing training to maintain the operator’s competency level.
Nationally accredited training institutes
A front end load operator is likely to be put through a nationally accredited training institute for the purposes of their work. These institutes will run training courses that will inform operators on how to use the controls and operating systems to manage the machine, how to locate the load and identify the load characteristics, safely move the load, monitor the controls and also how to stop, shut down and secure the equipment.
Nationally accredited training institutes are Registered Training Organisations that are commonly used to develop the competency of an operator or to allow a future operator achieve an extra qualification when looking for work.
Registered Training Organisations and courses
There are many RTO’s across Australia that offer the competency certificates required for operating a front end loader on a work site. As the legislation has made the competency certificates nationally accredited there are many organisations that offer competency certificates that will cover a front end loader operator for work in any state of Australia.
However, there are different levels of competency certificates. Some trade organisations that haven’t been registered may offer verification of competency (VOC) certificates that will not offer an operator national coverage. Also some larger work sites may not accept VOC’s as proof of competency and may request that their operators have attained a Nationally Recognised Certificate of Competency in the Workplace.
VOC’s are more commonly used by companies wishing to reaffirm their front end loader’s machine competency. Companies may require their operators to undertake a VOC at a 2 or 5 year interval, however the time between these verification of competency checks are determined at a company’s discretion and not currently guided by legislation.
These competency certificates issued by RTOs will be given as a permanent qualification. However most industries, especially mining, will require the certificate holder to reaffirm their competency every 5 years, which may be done by re-registering their certificate similarly to a motor vehicle license (costs may vary depending on the training institute), by a verification of competency at the RTO, by an on-site test or achieved through credit for prior learning.
The courses offered by RTO’s are open to nearly everyone, with basic requirements stipulating the applicant has basic reading and writing skills as well as a minimum age of 16 years.
Industry training school and Current relevant experience
Industry training schools may offer training programs to develop operator competency for a range of machinery, including the front end loader. It may be necessary for applicants attending an industry trade school, with the intention of operating front end loaders, to inquire about what competency certificates are being offered.
Current relevant experience may not be enough for some job sites (especially mining jobs with an emphasis on safety) but may be accepted as proof of competency based on the volume of the operator’s experience as well as any former qualifications. Holders of a defunct front end loader license or EPC certificate may be able to use these former qualifications as relevant experience when applying for a front end loader operator position, however the significance of these qualifications will be determined entirely by the PCBU and may be seen as subordinate to a competency certificate.
On-the-job training may allow an operator to avoid acquiring a competency certificate however there are associated risks that may encourage the PCBU to seek more formally recognised training programs. The training must be conducted by an experienced and competent person and the internal training must be carefully documented for evidence that legal requirements have been met. This is an uncommon method of training loader competency and may not be formally recognised from job to job.
How are front end load operators assessed?
The skills are assessed on the basis of preparation before access to site and securing work equipment, shifting loads and securing sites (safety) and have been developed to the standards of the National Guidelines for Occupational Health and Safety Competency Standards for Operation of Loadshifting Equipment and Other Types of Specified Equipment [NOHSC: 7019 1992)].
Immediately following an assessment at an RTO the applicant will be issued with a provisional competency certificate that will last until the accredited certificate is issued.
The costs are varied and almost entirely dependent on the decision of the PCBU. Where on job training and relevant experience won’t carry extra costs for the prospective operator, industry training school and competency certificates may come with a sting. Front end loader competency courses are offered from prices of $1500-$1800 depending on which state and institute the training is undertaken, with government rebates of $1000 available. The course may require two days or four days of training, depending on whether it is a one on one or group assessment, but typically last only two days.
There may be other requirements or qualifications for the operator depending on the type of job being completed. This may include a motor vehicle license or a heavy duty vehicle license, depending on the size of the loader, when traveling on a public road. There are also requirements for operators using earth moving machinery in crane mode, that under certain conditions may require the operator to have a dogging High Risk Work license. These are very specific conditions and may be checked in accordance to state legislation.