Excavating/Loading Machine/Dragline Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates or tends machinery equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets, to excavate and load loose materials.

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster Construction pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Moves levers, depresses foot pedals, and turns dials to operate power machinery, such as power shovels, stripping shovels, scraper loaders, or backhoes.
  • Sets up or inspects equipment prior to operation.
  • Becomes familiar with digging plans, machine capabilities and limitations, and with efficient and safe digging procedures in a given application.
  • Observes hand signals, grade stakes, or other markings when operating machines so that work can be performed to specifications.
  • Operates machinery to perform activities such as backfilling excavations, vibrating or breaking rock or concrete, or making winter roads.
  • Receives written or oral instructions regarding material movement or excavation.
  • Moves materials over short distances, such as around a construction site, factory, or warehouse.
  • Creates or maintains inclines or ramps.
  • Lubricates, adjusts, or repairs machinery and replace parts, such as gears, bearings, or bucket teeth.
  • Handles slides, mud, or pit cleanings or maintenance.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time
  • Whole body vibrations, such as when operating a jackhammer

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Seeing objects or movement to one's side when looking forward
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Aerial Tram Operator -- Tends aerial tramway (buckets attached to overhead cables and pulleys supported by towers) to convey refuse, coal, ore, and other materials from plant or mine to spoil pile, conveyor, railroad car, boat, or plant.
  • Foundation Digger -- Operates or tends machinery equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets, to excavate and load loose materials.
  • Grave Digger -- Responsible for digging graves used in the process of burial.
  • Horseback Excavator -- Excavates horseback (banks or ridges of dirt or rock in the coal seam) in a strip mine with a power shovel.
  • Pit Operator -- Handles a powered industrial truck (PIT) to safely move materials.