Street Cleaner

The Job and What's Involved

Street cleaners are responsible for cleaning the roads and public places used by vehicles and pedestrians. They also clean in car parks, public parks and underground subways. They help to maintain a safe and pleasant environment. They can be involved with cleaning or clearing up:

  • The general litter that accumulates on pavements, roads and verges.
  • Graffiti sprayed on street signs and buildings.
  • Fly posters stuck on walls.
  • Bottles, glass and cans near pubs and clubs.
  • Cigarette butts.
  • Dog fouling, discarded food and vomit.
  • Leaves and debris from gutters and drains.
  • Dead animals which may have been run over, from domestic cats to foxes.
  • Spillages on roads.
  • Illegal dumping.
  • Public conveniences.

Some areas have to be cleaned daily, some weekly, and some may be cleaned once a month. Street cleaners work to a set route, taking the waste to a city or local authority transfer station where it is put onto roll-on roll-off skips and eventually disposed of at landfill sites.

Other tasks may include gritting the highways during the winter and treating the weeds on grass verges.

Street cleaners use a variety of hand and machine-operated equipment to help them work safely and efficiently. These include:

- Brooms and brushes
- Shovels
- Dustcarts
- Litter pickers (a pincer or stick)
- Industrial vacuum cleaners
- Pressure washers
- Ride-on sweeping vehicles
- Detergents and weedkillers

Street cleaners usually work full-time hours, often 38 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They often work shifts, including weekends, early mornings and evenings. Early morning shifts are common, enabling cleaning to be carried out before most people leave their homes. Part-time, casual and overtime work is often available, especially after events such as sporting matches or concerts.

Street cleaners generally work outdoors in all weather conditions. They are provided with appropriate waterproof clothing and warm jackets. They may also wear protective clothing including overalls, gloves and high-visibility jackets.

It is a very physical job and street cleaners spend most of their time walking on hard pavements or on grass verges, bending, lifting, carrying, climbing ladders and using machinery.

The starting salary for a street cleaner may be around £11,000 a year. Street cleaners working in large cities may earn higher salaries.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 20,000 street cleaners working throughout the UK, mainly in towns and cities.

Most street cleaners work for local authorities and councils. They usually work in the cleansing or waste management department and are either employed directly by the authority or work through a contract cleaning company.

Other employment opportunities exist at local tourist attractions and in private organisations, such as airports.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices and on local authority websites.

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications to become a street cleaner. The minimum age for applicants is 18 years old. Most employers require applicants to have a driving licence because sweeping vehicles travel on public highways. In some cases, a heavy goods vehicle licence is required.

Apprenticeships in Cleaning and Support Services may be available, leading to appropriate NVQ/SVQ qualifications.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Street cleaners train on the job, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. They may also work towards qualifications such as NVQ's/SVQ's in Cleaning and Support Services at Levels 1 and 2 or the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS) Cleaning Operators Proficiency Certificate (COPC).

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Street cleaners should:

  • Be conscientious and reliable.
  • Work well alone and as part of a team.
  • Be prepared to work outdoors in all weathers.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to cope with early morning or evening shifts.
  • Be relatively fit and healthy.
  • Be able to follow instructions.
  • Have a good knowledge of health and safety guidelines.
  • Not be too squeamish or easily offended by unpleasant smells and sights.
  • Be able to use maps and street plans to find their way.
  • Be able to keep accurate timesheets and records.

Your Long Term Prospects

Street cleaners can gain promotion to supervisory and managerial roles.

They may also be able to move into other areas of work or departments within local authorities.

Get Further Information

British Cleaning Council (BCC),
PO Box 1328, Kidderminster,
Shropshire DY11 5ZJ
Tel: 01562 851129
Website: www.britishcleaningcouncil.org

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc),
9 Premier Court, Boarden Close,
Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6LF
Tel: 01604 678710
Website: www.bics.org.uk

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