How to become a Crane Operator

Crane Operator

Crane operators control mobile or stationary cranes to lift, move and place objects at locations such as building and construction sites, wharves and shipyards.

Personal requirements for a Crane Operator

  • Enjoy technical and engineering activities
  • Able to concentrate for long periods
  • Able to follow verbal and visual instructions
  • Mechanical aptitude and good coordination
  • Good eyesight for visual judgment of distances
  • Comfortable working at heights
  • Safety-conscious
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • At least 18 years of age

Education & Training for a Crane Operator

To become a crane operator you usually have to obtain a licence to Perform High Risk Work. To gain a licence, you will need to register with an approved Registered Training Organisation and work under the supervision of a licensed operator. You will also need to keep an approved logbook to record competencies achieved during training. Assessment by an independent assessor will then be required. The Perform High Risk Work Licence is issued under the National Standard for Licensing Persons Performing High Risk Work. You can also become a crane operator through a traineeship in Building and Construction (Specialist Trades), Construction Crane Operations or Mobile Crane Operations. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school.

Additional information

Licences to Perform High Risk Work are issued according to specific classes of crane operation. It is preferable to have a dogging licence before undertaking training to become a crane operator. All those who work in the construction industry must undergo safety induction training and be issued with a Construction Induction Card (CIC).

Duties & Tasks of a Crane Operator

Crane operators:

  • Check the condition of the ground before setting up the crane (on a building site, for example)
  • Place timber blocks or steel plates under the outrigger pads of the crane
  • Check that the crane is level on the outriggers before attempting to lift and place a load
  • Be aware of how much material can be safely hoisted in each load according to the crane's capacity and the weather conditions (high winds, for example)
  • Ensure that cranes are ready for use by checking controls, instruments and gauges
  • Move the crane and position the hook so that doggers can attach loads, slings, shackles and chains
  • Check crane cabin instruments to ensure that loads hooked on their machines are within safe working limits
  • Observe and follow the signals given by doggers who direct the moving and positioning of the loads
  • Maintain cranes by inspecting them for defects or wear, lubricate ropes and winches, and replace worn cables.


  • May operate cranes fitted with attachments for purposes such as demolition and pile driving
  • Operating controls to rotate cranes, move cranes on fixed rails, raise and lower jibs and booms, and raise, lower and move hooks and objects
  • Controlling the movement of loads, and monitoring speed, acceleration and braking distances directly and by signalling to other operators
  • Monitoring plant operation, instruments and gauges to detect malfunctions and problems
  • Working in conjunction with Construction Riggers and Crane Chasers to position hooks and raise, move and place loads
  • Testing the operation of plant before use to ensure safety
  • Lubricating ropes and winches on cranes and replacing worn cables
  • May operate overhead cranes using hand controls suspended by cables from cranes

Working conditions for a Crane Operator

Crane operators work on building and construction sites, in all weather conditions. They may operate a variety of cranes: overhead and gantry cranes used in factories and workshops, portal cranes used to move shipping containers, tower cranes used on large building projects, and mobile cranes that may be truck mounted.

Employment Opportunities for a Crane Operator

Crane operators are employed by building, civil contracting and construction companies; steel companies; crane contractors; manufacturing and engineering firms; iron and steel foundries; timber yards; and the minerals industry. They work on building sites, in factories and on wharves. Employment opportunities largely depend upon the level of activity within the construction industry, which in turn depends upon the conditions of growth in the economy and the level of private and government investment in construction projects.


Crane Operator

Crane operators control mobile or stationary cranes to lift, move and place objects at locations such as building and construction sites, wharves and shipyards.

  • Average age
    Average age
    44 years
  • Future Growth
    Future Growth
  • Gender Share
    Gender Share
    3% female
  • Average full-time
    Average full-time
    50 hours
  • Weekly Pay
    Weekly Pay
  • Skill level rating
    Skill level rating
    Lower skill
  • Unemployment
    Average unemployment
  • Full-Time Share
    Full-Time Share
    90% Full-Time
  • Employment Size
    Employment Size
    10,600 workers
  • Employment Size
    Employment by state
    ACT: 0.4%
    NSW: 29.8%
    NT: 1.4%
    QLD: 23.3%
    SA: 6.8%
    TAS: 1.4%
    VIC: 19.6%
    WA: 17.3%
  • Employment Size
    Age brackets
    15-19: 1.1%
    20-24: 5.1%
    25-34: 18.9%
    35-44: 26.4%
    45-54: 27.9%
    55-59: 11.2%
    60-64: 6.5%
    65 and Over: 2.9%
  • Employment Size
    Education level
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma: 3.9%
    Bachelor degree: 1.9%
    Below Year 10: 6.3%
    Certificate III/IV: 39%
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 0.3%
    Year 10 and below: 29.5%
    Year 11: 8.1%
    Year 12: 17.5%
    Years 11 & 10: 39.4%
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