Hunter P. Wharton, 80, retired general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers and a member of the National Safety Council, died Friday at Suburban Hospital after a heart attack. He lived in Rockville.

Mr. Wharton came to Washington in 1950 as assistant to the general president of IUOE. He was elected general vice president seven years later and became general secretary-treasurer in 1958.He was elected general president in 1962 and retired in 1975.

During this period, Mr. Wharton served on the National Joint Board for Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes in the Building and Construction Industry, as chairman of the Standing Committee on Accident Prevention of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the Construction Industry and as a member of the AFL-CIO Standing Committee on Occupational Health.

He was a former vice president of the Building and Construction Trades Department and the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. He had served on the National Safety Council as chairman of several committees and as vice president for labor. He was a member of the council's board of directors and its the executive committee at the time of his death.

Mr. Wharton was born in Martinsburg, W.Va. He was a graduate of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He joined Local 905 of the IUOE in Pittsburgh in 1926, and was its business manager from 1930 to 1950. During those years, he also was secretary of the Pittsburgh Building and Construction Trades Council. In 1948, he was put in charge of the international union's accident prevention activities.

In 1965, Mr. Wharton was vice chairman of the planning committee for the White House Conference on Occupational Safety and Health. He also was elected a vice president of the AFL-CIO. He had served as chairman of the labor committee of the President's Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, as a trustee of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and as secretary-treasurer of the Asian-American Free Labor Institute.

Since his retirement, he had been active in the National Council of Senior Citizens, serving as a board member-at-large. He was a past president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a past commander of the Knights of Malta and a member of the Elks.

He is survived by his wife, Lydia M., of Rockville.