Contractors and Supervisors, Heavy Construction Equipment Crews - What They Do

Contractors and supervisors of heavy equipment operator crews supervise and co-ordinate the activities of workers classified in the following unit groups: Crane operators (7371), Drillers and blasters – surface mining, quarrying and construction (7372), Water well drillers (7373), Longshore workers (7451), Material handlers (7452), Heavy equipment operators (except crane) (7521), Public works maintenance equipment operators and related workers (7522), Railway yard and track maintenance workers (7531), and Public works and maintenance labourers (7621). They are employed in a wide range of establishments; places of employment are indicated in the above unit group descriptions. Contractors may be self-employed.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Supervise, co-ordinate and schedule the activities of workers who operate cranes and construction, paving, drilling, railway maintenance and other similar heavy equipment
  • Establish methods to meet work schedules and co-ordinate work activities with other project supervisors or managers
  • Requisition materials and supplies
  • Resolve work problems and recommend measures to improve productivity
  • Train or arrange for training of workers
  • Recommend personnel actions such as hirings and promotions
  • Prepare production and other reports
  • May manage the operations of own company
  • May also supervise, co-ordinate and schedule the activities of related apprentices, helpers and labourers.
  • Small businesses' contractors may execute tasks within their trade area of expertise, which is generally not the case for supervisors or contractors associated with a medium or large business.

Job titles

  • railway section foreman/woman
  • supervisor, heavy equipment operators
  • supervisor, oil field construction
  • supervisor, water well drilling
  • track foreman/woman - railway
  • road maintenance foreman/woman
  • paving contractor
  • pipeline construction supervisor
  • foreman/woman, railway track maintenance
  • section foreman/woman, railway
  • excavating contractor
  • foreman/woman, demolition
  • foreman/woman, drilling and blasting - construction
  • foreman/woman, logging road construction
  • foreman/woman, railway gang
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Several years of experience in the occupation supervised is required.
  • Journeyman/woman trade certification in a relevant trade may be required.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions and warnings on labels. For example, they read hazard warnings and operating instructions on equipment labels. They read safe handling and storage instructions on product labels. (1)
  • Read short notes from co-workers. For example, railway track maintenance forepersons may read notes in which their superintendents ask them to read safety bulletins and review recent near-miss incidents involving their crews. Supervisors of logging road construction crews read payroll clerks' requests for clarification of workers' timesheet entries. Superintendents of longshore workers read notes from ships' agents about errors in stowage plans. (1)
  • Read e-mail messages and memos from co-workers, colleagues and customers. For example, heavy construction supervisors read e-mail messages in which their managers outline specifications for upcoming jobs. Excavation contractors read memos from customers on topics such as cost overruns and approaching deadlines. (2)
  • May read text entries in forms. For example, they may read entries in job application forms and resumes to learn about the skills of job applicants. (2)
  • Read notices, bulletins and factsheets. For example, railway track maintenance forepersons read bulletins on topics such as changes to their organizations' rules, regulations and procedures for track maintenance and repairs. Heavy construction supervisors read bulletins issued by trade groups such as the Construction Safety Association of Ontario to learn about new standards and codes for building bridges and roads. Supervisors of logging road construction read bulletins from workers' compensation boards to learn about accidents that resulted in fatalities. (3)
  • Read Acts, regulations and collective agreements. For example, excavation contractors read health and safety Acts to verify health and safety requirements prior to beginning work at job sites. When operating on other organizations' main lines, railway track maintenance forepersons read the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, Standard Practice Circular to understand the regulations for movement, rights of way and track maintenance. Superintendents of longshore workers read collective agreements to confirm actions they must take when longshore workers are asked to stand by during delays lasting longer than four hours. (3)
  • Read procedure manuals. For example, forepersons of road construction crews read project manuals to understand the responsibilities of contractors and to learn about specific procedures to ensure traffic safety and environmental protection. Superintendents of gas pipeline construction and maintenance technicians read pipe assembly and fusion procedures in order to explain to crews the exact procedures for tasks such as reducing pressures at feeding stations. (4)
  • May read operational and research reports and project proposals. For example, supervisors of logging road construction crews and team leaders of public works crews may read geological and environmental reports to identify special preparations required before beginning work in environmentally sensitive areas. Contractors read project proposals and contracts to ensure that the scopes of projects, terms and conditions are acceptable. (4)

Document use

  • Observe safety, warning and regulatory symbols and signs. For example, heavy construction supervisors observe signs which indicate speed limits, entry points for construction sites and requirements for personal protective equipment such as hard hats and safety vests. Supervisors of road construction crews observe warning signs for blasting activities and overhead power lines. (1)
  • Scan product and equipment labels for data such as dates, serial numbers and capacities. (1)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, blasting contractors use telephone and contact information lists to identify managers responsible for different aspects of drilling and blasting projects. Excavation contractors scan sizing and volume tables to locate quantities and dimensions for percolation rate calculations. Supervisors of crane operators identify crane capacities on load charts. Forepersons of railway track maintenance crews scan train timetables to locate arrival and departure times for various stations. (2)
  • Locate data in forms. For example, public works team leaders scan time cards to ensure that they have been completed accurately. Superintendents of longshore workers locate topics covered at daily toolbox meetings and names of attendees in meeting attendance logbooks. Heavy construction supervisors scan equipment summary forms to confirm quantities of materials used, loads moved and hours worked by crews' and equipment. (2)
  • Locate data in graphs. For example, supervisors of heavy equipment operators locate data in graphs of production volumes, equipment utilization, over speed violations and tire damage. (2)
  • Enter data into forms. For example, drill and blast forepersons enter load counts into shift summary forms to record the types and quantities of materials moved by crew members. Superintendents of longshore workers record data such as lengths of lumber loaded into ships' hatches and quantities remaining dockside on cargo stowage forms. Heavy construction supervisors enter task completion dates on project schedules. (2)
  • Complete forms. For example, excavation contractors complete job costing forms. Heavy construction supervisors prepare change order forms to record changes customers have requested. Superintendents of longshore workers complete ship release forms prior to requesting tug boat pilots. They enter dates, times, ships' names, berth numbers, sizes and weights. Blasting supervisors specify quantities of dynamite and powder they require for blasts in requisition forms. (2)
  • Interpret technical drawings. For example, supervisors of longshore workers identify containers' locations and serial numbers in stowage and dock plans. Supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews scan scale drawings of sewer and water pipes to locate features of excavation sites and surrounding areas. Supervisors of logging road construction crews scan topographical maps to locate landform features such as hills and valleys. (3)
  • Interpret schematics. For example, railway maintenance forepersons scan electrical schematics when troubleshooting equipment malfunctions. (3)


  • Write reminders, notes to co-workers and logbook entries. For example, railway maintenance forepersons write notes to remind themselves of instructions given by managers and rail traffic dispatchers. Supervisors of crane operators write notes about ground and safety conditions, job site hazards and coordination requirements for various workers. Excavation contractors write notes on work orders to remind equipment operators about tasks that have to be completed. Heavy equipment crew supervisors write entries in vehicle inspection logbooks to record damage to vehicles and to point out needed repairs. (2)
  • Write e-mail messages to colleagues and customers. For example, supervisors of logging road construction crews may write e-mail messages to engineers to inform them of mud holes discovered during road building projects. Excavation contractors write e-mail messages to customers to provide them with project updates, to request additional information and clarifications and to seek approval for changes to projects' plans. (2)
  • May write letters. For example, supervisors of longshore workers may write letters to union officers to outline reasons for taking actions such as suspending workers. (3)
  • Write descriptions of incidents and accidents in reporting forms. For example, supervisors of logging road construction crews complete reports on incidents such as fuel spills. They include descriptions of the locations, quantities and types of spills and the actions taken to contain and clean them up. Railway maintenance forepersons record their observations and recollections of events in accident, incident and near miss reports. (3)
  • May write short reports. For example, superintendents of gas pipeline construction and maintenance crews may prepare progress reports on installation projects. They describe work that has been completed, summarize safety and environmental incidents, discuss problems encountered and offer recommendations for improvements in work processes. (3)
  • May write proposals. For example, road construction contractors may write proposals for construction projects. They write detailed descriptions of work that needs to be carried out and the equipment and personnel that will be required to do the work. They propose methods, materials and timelines and address customers' concerns about damage to neighbouring properties and the environment. (4)


Money Math

  • Calculate invoice amounts. For example, heavy equipment contractors calculate charges for earth moving jobs using hourly rates for operators and equipment. They calculate sales taxes and total the invoices. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Schedule workers and equipment. For example, heavy construction supervisors create work schedules for equipment and operators on large road construction projects. They schedule haul trucks to minimize down time for loader operators. They make adjustments for delays caused by weather and equipment breakdowns. (3)
  • Establish equipment maintenance and repair schedules. They consider equipment manufacturers' suggested preventative maintenance schedules, operators' equipment logbooks and visual inspections of equipment to determine time intervals for repairs. They schedule maintenance and repair activities so that disruptions to daily operations are minimized. (3)
  • May create and monitor budgets. For example, excavation and site preparation contractors may create budgets for construction projects. They calculate costs for workers and equipment using a variety of hourly and daily rates. They propose amounts for fuel, maintenance, administration and other expected costs. They monitor and adjust budget amounts as projects proceed. (4)
  • Take measurements using common measurement tools. For example, supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews measure work sites using tapes. Railway maintenance forepersons measure distances between rail joints with rulers. (1)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Calculate quantities of construction materials. For example, supervisors of logging road construction crews calculate volumes of rock face displaced given the heights, widths and depths of blasted materials. (2)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare measurements specifications and standards. For example, forepersons of road building crews compare measurements of road beds to specifications in survey drawings. Supervisors of logging road construction crews compare quantities of accumulated rainfall to allowable maximums for continuing construction activities. (1)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate times required to complete tasks. For example, superintendents of gas pipeline construction and maintenance technicians estimate times to complete repairs to gas pipelines, given the nature of the repairs, geographic locations, availabilities of materials and weather conditions. Railway maintenance forepersons estimate times to complete repairs in order to request track occupancy permits from rail traffic control dispatchers. Forepersons of road preparation crews estimate times for the various phases of construction projects when setting target completion dates. (2)

Oral communication

  • Discuss products and delivery schedules with manufacturers. For example, heavy construction supervisors coordinate deliveries of parts and equipment by manufacturers. (1)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers, colleagues and customers. For example, blasting supervisors explain daily assignments, provide instructions such as quantities and types of materials to be moved and respond to crews' enquiries during morning crew meetings. Supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews speak to tradespeople to coordinate the use of work space and equipment. Railway maintenance forepersons ask maintenance supervisors to rush repairs on equipment such as chain saws. Road construction supervisors tour job sites with their customers and explain progress made to date and problems encountered. (2)
  • Discuss technical matters with co-workers, colleagues and manufacturers' representatives. For example, excavation contractors discuss equipment with mechanics and manufacturers' technical representatives. (3)
  • Negotiate terms of employment, construction contracts and prices for equipment. For example, road construction supervisors negotiate for services such as drilling and blasting. Heavy construction supervisors negotiate new timelines with general contractors when they cannot provide crews and equipment on short notice. Excavation contractors negotiate prices for new equipment with equipment manufacturers. (3)
  • May present progress reports to managers and project proposals to customers. Heavy construction supervisors present information about ongoing projects to managers at weekly meetings. Supervisors of longshore workers discuss logistics such as the off-loading and delivery new rapid transit rail cars in meetings with customers. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Find that workers are not following specified safety procedures. They discuss the safety infractions with workers both individually and at team meetings. They review the standard operating procedures for job tasks and inform workers of the consequences should infractions continue. (2)
  • Cannot complete scheduled work because equipment is not working properly. For example, supervisors of logging road construction crews discover that equipment such as front-end loaders are burning higher amounts of fuel than normal. They ask maintenance personnel to service the equipment and assign operators to other pieces of equipment. They may ask other contractors to provide and operate replacement front-end loaders. (3)
  • Cannot complete jobs on time due to poor weather. For example, when the ground becomes too saturated, contractors have to stop the excavation of basements and footings. They ask crew members to work overtime and may hire subcontractors to help complete jobs on time. (3)

Decision Making

  • Select suppliers for equipment, supplies and construction materials. For example, supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews consider both product quality and pricing when selecting suppliers for fill material. Supervisors of crane operators consider delivery times and costs when ordering parts from heavy equipment suppliers and manufacturers. (2)
  • Choose equipment and operators for particular jobs. They assign operators to equipment after considering job requirements and the skills and experience of crew members and the functions and capacities of various pieces of equipment. (2)
  • Hire, fire and promote workers. For example, contractors hire workers after reviewing job applications, talking to former employers and asking for practical demonstrations of skill with tools and equipment. Forepersons of road preparation crews observe operators' driving skills and work ethics when determining who they will retain as permanent crew members and who they will promote to greater responsibilities. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • Assess workers' performance. For example, supervisors of crane operators observe workers' use of time and equipment. They compare workers' productivity to industry standards. Supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews observe operators' precision, speed and safe use of equipment. (3)
  • Evaluate the quality of work that has been completed. For example, forepersons of road preparation crews evaluate the quality of road preparation by measuring compaction and by comparing site measurements to engineering and construction specifications. Supervisors of logging road construction crews judge road stability by reading geological reports and observing local soil conditions. (3)
  • Evaluate the safety of work sites and practices. For example, supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews identify unstable slopes and scan sites for hazards such as overhead electrical wires. (4)

Job Task Planning and Organizing Own Job Planning and Organizing

Contractors and supervisors of heavy construction are responsible for organizing their days to meet projects' timelines. They determine their own job priorities and sequences to achieve goals for productivity and safety.

Planning and Organizing for Others

Contractors and supervisors of heavy construction are responsible for organizing and planning the job tasks of the workers they supervise. They may plan and organize job tasks for several crews working at different locations.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember important dates in project timelines.

Finding Information

  • Find information about construction jobs. For example, contractors and supervisors of heavy construction find information about jobs by speaking to co-workers, managers, customers and consultants and by studying construction plans and specifications. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use word processing. For example, excavation contractors may write proposals for jobs they are bidding on. Superintendents of gas pipeline construction and maintenance technicians prepare letters to managers and project planners to request additional equipment for projects they are working on. (2)
  • Use databases. Supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews access provincial databases for information on infrastructure projects. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, public works team leaders use spreadsheets to track job tasks completed by their teams. Supervisors of excavation and site preparation crews calculate costs for budget categories such as labour and fuel consumption. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, superintendents of gas pipeline construction and maintenance crews exchange e-mail messages with co-workers in other departments to coordinate job tasks and meeting schedules. Heavy construction supervisors send cost estimates to their customers as e-mail attachments. Superintendents of longshore workers receive and open attachments of stowage plans from colleagues in other ports. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, supervisors of longshore workers search the Internet for the dimensions of equipment and vehicles they will be unloading. Supervisors of crane operators search the Internet for used equipment and parts they require. Paving forepersons access their organizations' websites for technical drawings. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Contractors and supervisors of heavy construction work independently to interpret construction drawings, create work plans and manage the activities of their crews. They coordinate and integrate job tasks with their crews, other supervisors, tradespeople, and engineers to ensure completion of work assignments. (2)

Continuous Learning

Contractors and supervisors of heavy construction learn continuously to improve supervisory and management skills and to maintain current knowledge of construction methods. They learn through their day-to-day interactions with co-workers and colleagues and by reading updates to codes, regulations and standards. (3)