Excavator pre-start checklists are an important tool in ensuring plant and operator safety. It is the responsibility of the operator to ensure the excavator is in a safe condition prior to starting work for the day.

Excavator pre-start checklists are completed prior to starting work for the day and can be completed on paper or digitally on a smart device app.

An excavator pre-start checklist consists of the following three stages:

  • Visual inspection prior to starting the machine,
  • Function test while stationary, and
  • Operational test while driving.

Excavator Pre-Start Checklists

The checklist items provided in this article are generic to most excavators and list items should be added or deleted to ensure excavator safety depending on the specific model or type of excavator.

Visual Inspection

The visual inspection is completed prior to starting the machine and include:

  • Logbook & Operators Manual – up to date & located with the equipment
  • Equipment is within its logbook service schedule
  • Project Plant Inspection Label – fitted & current
  • Fluid Levels – hydraulics|oils|water|fuel
  • Fluid Leaks – hydraulics|oils|water|fuel
  • Machine Greased
  • Pre-Cleaner/Air Cleaner
  • Track Tension
  • Warning/Safety Signs/Decals – visible
  • Guards, Steps, & Handrails – fitted & no damage
  • FOPS & ROPS – security & condition
  • Cabin – clean, serviceable & no loose items
  • Seat Belt
  • Windows & Mirrors – fitted, clean & serviceable
  • Fire Extinguishers x 2 – fitted, accessible & current/charged
  • First Aid Kit – accessible & fully stocked
  • Attachments – security, pins, damage and no loose or damaged parts:

Function Tests

Function tests are conducted while the machine is running and stationary. Function tests include:

  • Engine – starts & runs smoothly
  • Instruments/Gauges, Lamps, Warning System & Flashing Lights – operational
  • GPS – function
  • UHF Radio – operational
  • Lights Front & Rear
  • Horn & Reversing Alarm
  • Reverse Camera
  • Emergency Stop (E-Stops)
  • Air Conditioner.

Operational Checks

Operational checks are conducted while taking the excavator on a short drive. Operational checks include:

  • Steering – working well with no undue noise/stress
  • Steering Clutches – no excessive play
  • Controls/Creep – no creep when controls are neutralised.

It is important not to operate the excavator if unsafe to do so. If the machine is found to be unsafe it needs to be tagged out and repaired prior to use.

Excavator Pre-Start Checklist Administration

Once the excavator pre-start checklist has been completed and the machine has been found serviceable and safe to operate the checklist needs to be collected or dropped off at the site office for archiving. Safe Work Australia “While you must keep records associated with plant requiring design or item registration, it is good practice to keep records for other types of plant in your workplace.”

Digital Excavator Pre-Start Checklists

DIGI CLIP mobile forms provide a checklist and inspection app that allows for excavator pre-start checklist to be completed on a smartphone or tablet. DIGI CLIP was built to save you time and money when reporting on vehicles, equipment, facilities, worksites and safety by digitising and automating your checklists, inspections, audits and other forms. To learn more follow this link.


To sum up, it is the responsibility of the excavator operator to ensure the machine is in a safe condition prior to starting work. Excavator pre-start checklists can help identify potential hazards and determine whether or not the machine is safe for use. Excavator pre-start checklists are an important tool in ensuring plant and operator safety.