Employees in Plant and Machinery Operator jobs are responsible for controlling, maintaining and monitoring machinery and equipment across a range of industries. Some of the duties performed by workers in these roles including setting instruments, checking for faults, and preparing and measuring raw materials.

The roles available for Plant and Machinery Operators are diverse. Power Plant Operators run facilities which generate electricity, gas and nuclear energy. Process Plant Operators refine and pump resources such as oil, gas and petroleum. On civil construction sites, operators excavate and dig trenches using heavy machinery such as loading shovels and compactors. Machinery Operators are employed in the manufacturing industry to work with equipment such as milling machines and lathes. They are responsible for adjusting machinery for production runs and ensuring that settings are correct.



    Major employers for Plant & Machinery Operators jobs are mining companies, civil construction contractors, private developers and manufacturers. Job prospects vary depending on the industry.

    Opportunities for Gas, Chemical, Petroleum and Power Plant Operators are expected to remain steady up to November 2020. Employment for Other Mobile Plant Operators rose moderately over recent years and jobs opportunities will be average over the next few years. Jobs for Earthmoving Plant Operators have decreased and are expected to decline further up to 2020. Job openings for Other Machine Operators are also forecasted to be below average.

    Click here for current job vacancies with Australia’s leading recruiter for operator jobs. 


    Projections from the Australian Department of Employment, 2015 to 2020. Note data is '000.


    Construction Plant Operator, Gas Plant Operator, Trencher Operator, Excavator Operator, Combo Operator, Process Plant Operator, Crane Operator, Civil Machine Operator, Scraper Operator, Grader Operator, Dozer Operator, Chemical Plant Operator, Loader Operator, Plant Machinery Operator, Farm Machinery Operator, Plant Operator, Forklift Driver, Dump Truck Operator.


    • Operate, maintain and monitor power-generating equipment


    • Operate heavy machinery such as bulldozers and excavators


    • Use control boards and semi-automated equipment


    • Follow operating manuals and procedures


    • Interpret charts, gauges and meters


    • Detect operating problems, troubleshoot and take correction action


    • Operate generators, turbines, control rods and cooling systems


    • Respond to emergencies by shutting down equipment


    • Follow protocols to deal with transmission failures and power outages by placing emergency generators online


    • Make minor repairs and report major maintenance issues


    • Clean and maintain machinery, tools and equipment


    • Communicate with maintenance crews


    • Ensure safety guidelines are adhered to


    • Use computerised systems to record information, run tests and operate machinery


    • Determine requirements and select raw materials for production


    • Place orders for raw materials


    • Load machines for production and adjust settings to meet job specifications


    • Communicate with clients, supervisors and colleagues


    • Inspect finished products to ensure they meet quality standards

    Personal attributes required for Plant & Machinery Operator jobs:

    Physical fitness:  Plant and Machinery Operators must possess a good level of physical fitness as they may be required to stand or sit for long periods of time at control stations. Some jobs are in hot dusty and noisy conditions where chemical fumes may be present. Employees may also need to lift heavy equipment and work at heights or in confined spaces when performing maintenance and repair duties.

    Concentration: Good concentration and attention to detail are essential requirements for Plant & Machinery Operator jobs, as workers are responsible for controlling highly sophisticated machinery and equipment. They must be able to monitor operations closely and identify problems.  

    Problem solving:  Once a problem has been identified, Plant and Machinery Operators need to troubleshoot and resolve it quickly. This requires excellent analytical skills and the ability to find innovative solutions.

    Manual skills:  Dexterity is needed to manipulate switches, levers and controls. Good hand-eye co-ordination is important when using a wide range of tools for maintenance and repairs.

    Communication Skills: It is essential for workers to be able to listen to instructions and follow them. Employees need strong verbal skills to discuss technical issues with clients, supervisors and colleagues, and to work as part of a team. Reading and writing skills are required to follow detailed instruction manuals, record information in logs, and document maintenance issues.

    Flexibility: Facilities such as power plants and off-shore rigs require staff around the clock, and shift work is a common feature for Plant & Machinery Operator jobs. Employees need to be flexible to adapt to night shifts and rotating rosters. FIFO jobs require a high level of flexibility in workers’ personal lives as they may need to be absent for extended periods.

    Safety Awareness: Working with heavy machinery and chemicals can be dangerous, and staff need to adhere to strict procedures and protocols for safety. Nuclear power plants and other energy-generating facilities maintain high levels of security, and all employees must follow security measures.


    Pay rates vary significantly for Plant and Machinery Operator jobs. Chemical, Petroleum, Gas and Power Plant Operators earn above average in Australia, with an hourly rate of $63.90 in 2014, compared to $34.70 for the general population. Workers in these positions were placed at number six among twenty highest paid jobs by hourly rate. Crane, Hoist and Lift Operators were also identified as earning above average.  

    The expected starting salary for Petroleum Plant Operators is $63,000 per annum, with an average salary of $85,000 per annum. Earthmoving Plant Operators have a starting salary of $35,000 per year, and an average yearly wage of $65,00, but seniors can earn up to $100,00.

    Based on a survey of wages, Heavy Equipment Operators in Australia can expect to earn between $22.07 per hour to $38.38 on average, depending on skills and experience, while Excavator Operators earn between $21.98 to $35.38. Production Operators earn a yearly salary between $42, 381 and $110, 587, with a median hourly rate of $24. Printing Machine Operators earn between $41,567 and $64, 063 per annum.


    Apprenticeships and traineeships are available for those seeking to become Plant and Machinery Operators. Both involve on the job instruction and formal learning with a Registered Training Organisation. Vocational training can be undertaken by students while they are still at school to increase their chances of gaining entry to these fields.

    Most jobs require basic tickets such as a White Card and First Aid qualification. Forklift, crane/dogging and earthmoving tickets may also improve employment prospects. Trade qualifications in areas such as plumbing or gas fitting are highly valued by employers and provide another possible entry point. During the application process for Plant & Machinery Operator jobs, applicants may be required to take a range of aptitude tests.

    Suitable courses for those seeking to gain or update their skills:

    • Certificate II in Process Manufacturing


    • Certificate III in Process Plant Operations


    • Certificate III in Civil Construction (Plant Operations)


    • Certificate III in Surface Extraction

    Many Plant & Machinery Operators jobs specify the following:

    • Industry Experience


    • White Card


    • Standard 11


    • Driver’s license and own transport


    • Drug and alcohol testing


    • Ability to work rotating rosters


    • Willingness to travel


    • Commitment to safety standards


    • Steel-capped boots