Licenses for Equipment Dry Hire in NSW

Some of the most frequently misunderstood terms in plant hire are those differentiating hire types, and how those may affect your business’s bottom line and hiring practices.

licence for equipment


The two hire types are:

  • Wet hire – Wet hire refers to hiring both the piece of equipment and the necessary personnel to run it.
  • Dry hire – Dry hire refers to simply hiring the piece itself and supplying your own operator.

There are obvious pros and cons to both. The ability to roll all requiescant fees for a piece of equipment – including the worker hours necessary to operate it – is a very agreeable solution for many companies looking for simplicity.

Alternatively, dry hiring can save a substantial amount of time and cost if you have an employee on staff who already has the necessary qualifications and expertise to handle the plant equipment. For example, if you have an outside operator come onto your construction site you have to induct them into the workplace safety practices you have implemented, ensure they are up to speed on the work required etc. This takes time – which is a cost both in terms of the hire equipment but also to your team as you will lose a worker for the time they are inducting the operator.

Certification and the law

No matter which route you take, you’ll eventually have to consider your state’s legislation and if the operator (either outsourced or internal) is qualified to operate the plant equipment. For example, under NSW law there are certain certifications that workers require for machinery operation. On top of that, they must have practical experience operating and perform so under supervision from an RTO – it’s not considered enough to have theoretical experience and abstract knowledge of the plant.

These considerations are the backbone of choosing between wet and dry hire. Knowing which is more suitable for your company requires careful consideration of these; each situation is different, and unfortunately there’s no ‘best’ solution to quickly turn to.

 Licenses for dry hire in NSW

The rules governing non hand-operated and machine plant are found under Chapter 5 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation (2011).

When you hire plant, you’re required by law to be given a notification of the condition and any faults inherent within or as a consequence of use under subsection 199. This is especially important when discussing Dry Hire, as unless circumstance happens to dictate it, there’s no way for a worker to come to grips with the plant before operation.

When dealing with dry hire, you should always know your rights and responsibilities under law – this applies to both businesses and managers (who are responsible for managing health and safety associated with the plant under subdivision 203), but also workers who are required to possess necessary certification and conduct themselves in accordance with OH&S.


Fork and bucket equipment

While a high-risk work license is not required with any telehandling equipment fitted with a fork or bucket, the conductor of business “has a duty of care to ensure workers have appropriate training in operating the telehandler”.

Otherwise, there are two main licenses required to operate forklifts within NSW:

  1. A forklift truck equipped with a mast and an elevating load carriage with a pair of fork arms or other attachment (class LF)
  2. An order picking forklift truck where the operator’s control elevates with the load carriage/lifting media (class LO)

The differentiation here comes from the method of control. LO order picks require harnesses and are generally more complex to operate compared to LF forklifts, which are controlled with a regular cockpit and steering wheel. Neither class classifies you to work with the other, but most employees begin their training with a class LF license as it covers the largest total number of case scenarios and model numbers (as well as most pedestrian uses).


There are 9 subsets of crane types categorised under NSW law, these are:

  • Bridge and gantry cranes
  • Derrick cranes
  • Non-slewing mobile cranes greater than three tonnes capacity
  • Portal boom cranes
  • Self-erecting tower cranes
  • Slewing mobile cranes
  • Tower cranes
  • Vehicle loading cranes
  • Concrete placing booms

All of these require a high-risk work licence to use, with no exceptions. A brief description of each type can be found here, and a more detailed outline within the legislation itself. Each of these require a separate license, which is why wet hire for cranes is so common – people looking to dry hire for cranes must be very sure that they’re hiring personnel with the correct form of certification.


According to regulation changes, excavators no longer require specific licensing or certification for operators to have when performing excavation works. The plant equipment this relates to includes:

  • Front-end loader backhoe (LB)
  • Bridge and gantry (remote control) crane (LBG)
  • Excavators (LE)
  • Front-end loaders (LL)
  • Scrapers (LP)
  • Road-rollers (LR)
  • Graders (LG)
  • Skid steer loaders (LS)
  • Dozers (LZ)

However, this does not mean that just anyone can climb onto an excavator and begin using it – it is the responsibility of the site owner/manager to ensure that all workers using such equipment are competent and capable of using the equipment.

This competency can be proven through documentation of prior certification, any logbooks or similar records detailing their experience with similar equipment, or relevant work reviews/assessments where their competency is detailed.

Is wet or dry hire right for you?

The choice of wet hire or dry hire will be dependent on your individual circumstances, particularly:

  • What type of equipment (ie forklift, excavator, crane etc.), and
  • The competency/certification of your workers.

Regardless of which you choose, always ensure that you approach several businesses for quote information, and ensure they are able to supply your business with exactly what you require.

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By John

John Condron, has had a very long varied career in heavy equipment industry. Including a 10 year stint in the USA materials handling markets. John now make a full time writing for several online publications.