Every year in the United States, there are roughly 150,000 injuries at construction sites. Many of these injuries are caused by improper use of heavy equipment. Learning how to use heavy machinery properly and safely will greatly improve everyone’s safety on-site. 

One such piece of heavy machinery is the excavator. Excavators and mini-excavators are used on construction sites for a number of different reasons. 

If you’re new to construction, you might be wondering how to use an excavator. Stick with this article, we’ve got you covered.

Components of an Excavator

Before we look at how to drive an excavator, let’s first take a look at the parts that make up the machine. There are three main parts that we’ll focus on. 


The cab is where you’ll sit when operating an excavator. It has a basic shelter and seat in it and you’ll find all the essential controls in the cab. 


The stick is the hydraulically operated arm that you see jutting out of the excavator. It’s the main part of the excavator that you’ll control when you’re using it. 

You can attach many different attachments to the end of the stick depending on the job you’re doing. Attachments include things like grapples, trenching buckets, and thumbs.

You can shop for attachments here. 


The blade is an important component of an excavator. You’ll find it attached to the undercarriage of the machine and its job is to stabilize the machine while you’re using it. 

It can be positioned at the front or the rear of the excavator, depending on the job you’re doing. 

How to Use an Excavator 

Now we’ve looked into the components, let’s take a look at how to drive an excavator. 

The first thing you want to do is climb into the cab and get the machine started. You can do this via the ignition that you’ll find on the control panel. 

Once you’re fired up, you can begin to operate the excavator. Use the control lever in the cab to lower the blade until you feel the excavator pitch up slightly. Then you can use the throttle for power. If you’re new to using excavators, go easy on the throttle until you get the hang of it. 

When you want to start excavating, extend the stick outwards using the primary stick. Once it’s halfway extended, grab the bucket control and adjust the angle of the bucket. After that, it’s just a case of lowering the arm until the teeth of the bucket make contact with the ground. 

Use the joysticks to finesse your angles. To dig, pull the control stick back to scoop up the dirt. Maneuver the boom to the side to dump the material, and repeat. 

Proper Use Equals Site Safety 

Just remember that learning how to use your equipment properly keeps everyone on-site safe. You’ve now learned the basics of how to use an excavator, but you should do some more research and never feel scared to ask a colleague about the machinery you’re using. Excavator safety is key to doing a job properly. 

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