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Operate a excavator


Unit Standard (SAQA Reg. No 262744)

An excavator is a large, versatile diesel-powered construction machine made for digging out earth with its bucket to create trenches, holes and foundations. .The operator sits inside a small cab attached to the base and controls the arm. The main purpose of an excavator is to excavate soil of all different types. Then with the use of the hydraulic system forcefully pull the soil towards the machine using the bucket, essentially moving the soil (earthmoving) to a close by area on site or onto a truck for removal.

This course will assist the learner operator in becoming a fully qualified Excavator operator who has the knowledge, skills and experience to operate an Excavator in a safe and professional manner.

Successful learner of this standard will be able to:

  • Demonstrating knowledge of the functions of a excavator.
  • Planning for work activities and prepare work area.
  • Starting and shutting down excavator.
  • Operating excavator.
  • Transporting excavator to and from sit.


  • 5 Days Novice
  • 1 Day Re-certification



Quality Assured Partner: Construction Education And Training Authority



The qualifying learner will be able to operate an excavator by understanding the functions of starting, shutting down and operating procedures for the machine. Learners who master the applied competence described in this course will contribute to the development of a professional community of Construction Plant operators. The area of focus of this course will be;

Demonstrate knowledge of the Functions of an Excavator

Parts & Functions Explained

  • Radiator & Oil cooler.
  • Valve partition hood.
  • Swing control valve.
  • Cab.
  • Instrument / Control panel.
  • Fuel Tank.
  • Hydraulic swivel.
  • Upper rollers.
  • Pads.
  • Links.
  • Idler wheels.
  • Lower rollers.
  • Chain guides.
  • Drive sprockets / Travel reduction gears.
  • Undercarriage.
  • Turntable bearing.
  • Upperstructure frame.
  • Operator’s compartment.
  • Attachment control valve.
  • Valve partition.
  • Hydraulic reservoir.
  • Hydraulic filters.
  • Hydraulic pump.
  • Air filter.
  • Counterweight.
  • Engine.
  • Engine hood.

Controls & Instruments Overview Explained

  • Safety lever – servo control
  • Arm rests
  • Right joystick
  • Left joystick
  • Pedal for left travel gear
  • Pedal for right travel gear
  • Attachment control
  • Heater vent
  • blank
  • Horn
  • Upper carriage lock
  • Control panel
  • Ignition key
  • Engine speed control
  • Engine shut off lever
  • Cigarette lighter
  • Radio
  • Heater
  • Ashtray
  • Electrical/fuse box
  • Buzzer
  • Swing brake control
  • Frequency commutation for hydraulic hammer
  • Limiter circuit for industrial attachment
  • Pressure commutation
  • Key switch – Quick disconnect
  • Safety operation switch

Instrument Panel Overview

.Excavator Safety

  • Destined Use
  • General Safety Information
  • Crushing & Burn Prevention
  • Fire & Explosion Prevention
  • Machine Start-Up Safety
  • Engine Start-Up and operating Safety
  • Machine Operating Safety
  • Machine Transporting Safety
  • Machine Parking Safety
  • Machine Towing Safety

Bail Out Procedure

Start and Shut Down Excavator

  • Daily Checks
  • Pre-Start Checks
  • Start-Up Checks
  • Daily Pre-Start Checklist

Shutting Down the Excavator

  • Excavator Closedown Procedure
  • Logbooks & Other Checklists

Principles of Operations

  • Centre of Gravity
  • Side Loading (Dragging)

Mechanical Appreciation – Engine

  • Hydraulic System
  • Leverage & Stability
  • Undercarriage
  • Steering System
  • Batteries

Working Equipment Assembly

  • Swing Drive


Load Capacity & Range.

  • Load Chart


  • Hand Signals
  • Communication By Radio

Practical Operations

  • Perform Understanding on Pre-Start & Start-up Checks
  • Explain if Job is Within the Capacity of the Excavator
  • Setup the Excavator for the Job
  • Perform the Operation
  • During the Excavator Operation
  • Starting the Engine

Excavator Operation

  • Travel
  • Joystick Controls
  • Operations
  • Excavator Work
  • Backhoe Work
  • Shovel Work
  • Loading Work
  • Ditch Digging

Loading & Unloading Trailer

Stopping the Engine

Entry level requirements into this programme?

All new entrants intended under this code (Novice or Re-licensing) shall provide training institution with the required documents.

  • An employer declaration or medical certificate confirming the medical fitness of the learner to undergo the intended training
  • An eye test results issued by a person trained to carry out such tests
  • All new entrants intended under this code will be required to hold at least a Grade 9 (Std 7) school certificate and are at least 18 years of age.
  • Learners shall provide training institution with a valid certified copy of his/her Identity Document
  • Certified copy of learners drivers license if will be using Excavator on public roads
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