Water Jetter

The Job and What's Involved

Water jetters use high-pressure (HP) jet equipment to clean various surfaces, including paving slabs, patios, brickwork, walls and buildings, road surfaces and vehicles. HP jets are also used for:

- Cleaning drains and sewers
- Industrial de-scaling and de-silting
- Boiler tube cleaning
- Cleaning inside cooling towers
- Removing water and debris from manholes
- Concrete removal from bridges or road surfaces

Water jets operate at various pressures. Ultra-high-pressure (UHP) water jets operate at an extremely high pressure and can be used to cut through steel. They are also used for:

  • Cold-cutting pipes and tank plates.
  • Removing oil, paint and food by-product residues.
  • The removal of surface coatings.
  • Cleaning and cutting by the marine, chemical and offshore industries.

Duties of a water jetter include:

  • Checking that equipment is safe to use, with no obvious signs of wear.
  • Assessing the area where the work is to be carried out, e.g. the underlying cause of a blocked drainage system.
  • Clearing public areas, ensuring that members of the public are redirected and suitably protected.
  • Connecting the equipment to a water supply.
  • Selecting a suitable nozzle, connecting it securely to the jetting gun (or lance).
  • Directing the water jet.

Other workers usually accompany water jetters, clearing areas and paths of any obstructions before jet cleaning begins. The trained water jetter is the only person qualified to operate the equipment. At all times, health and safety and operating regulations must be strictly observed.

Working hours depend upon the job and can vary considerably. Water jetters usually work around 39 hours a week, usually during the daytime. Early morning starts and some weekend work may be required. This may involve overtime. Shift work and part-time opportunities are widely available. Water jetters will usually travel regionally to different projects, sometimes further afield.

The work may be carried out at industrial sites, on roads or on driveways of private houses. About half of all jetting work is concerned with the cleaning of drains and sewers. This involves working in extremely dirty and confined spaces, which may require some bending, kneeling or crouching. In general, conditions can be dusty. In some cases, jetters must wear respirators. The work can be physically demanding and may be unsuitable for people with chest complaints or claustrophobia.

UHP protective boots are essential to prevent severe injuries to operators. Employers must provide protective clothing, footwear and face shields. Self-employed water jetters have to provide their own equipment.

Trainee water jetters usually start on around £15,000 a year.
A water jet cutting engineer and experienced drainage water jetters may earn between £20,000 and £30,000 a year.

Water jetters working on highly specialist contracts can earn £40,000 or more annually.

There may also be bonuses, overtime pay and expenses for travelling and accommodation.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Water jetters work on all types of building and civil engineering projects, as well as for private individuals. Employers include building contractors, engineering contractors, the offshore industry, local authorities and public organisations. Jobs are available throughout the UK.

Many water jetters work for contractors who provide services to the construction and engineering industries. Self-employment is common and water jetters may also work on a labour only basis for a contractor, with all tools and materials supplied.

Vacancies may be advertised in the local press, in Connexions centres and in Jobcentre Plus offices. It may also be worthwhile approaching local employers to enquire about work experience and trainee roles. The Water Jetting Association (WJA) lists member companies on its website.

Education and Training

No set qualifications are needed to start work as a trainee water jetter. However, entrants need to be physically fit to cope with the demands of the job and are legally required to be 18 years or over to operate a jetter.

GCSE's (A*-E) in maths, design and technology and English may be helpful for entry. The Diploma in construction and the built environment also provides a useful introduction to the sector.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most employers provide basic training covering the use of jetting equipment and the importance of health and safety. Trainees may work with more experienced colleagues until they are familiar with the role.

Trainees may also be encouraged to work towards the CSkills Awards NVQ Level 2 in associated industrial services occupations, which provide a pathway in water jetting.

The WJA offers a practical two-day training course in drain and sewer cleaning through a number of approved training providers. The course is aimed at new and inexperienced water jetters, as well as experienced operators who want to improve their skills. On completion of the course, a certificate of training achievement is awarded. Visit the WJA website for details. Due to the potentially dangerous nature of the work, the WJA also offers a mandatory safety awareness training course.

Further training relating to working in confined spaces in water is available. City & Guilds (C&G) offers qualifications at Level 2, 3 and 4.

ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards are increasingly required for water jetters when working on site if duties include cutting and breaking, surface cleaning, drains and sewers and tube cleaning. These cards provide proof of occupational competence.

Water jetters can apply for Red, Experienced Worker and Blue Cards, depending on qualifications and experience. Applicants need a relevant NVQ and must pass the Operative Health and Safety Test. There is also a route to CSCS certification via the WJA training certificates.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A water jetter should be:

  • Physically fit.
  • Practical, with good hand and co-ordination skills.
  • Team focused.
  • Able to follow instructions.
  • Knowledgeable about and respect safe working practices.
  • Reliable and well organised.
  • Good at communicating with customers and colleagues.
  • Comfortable managing his or her own workload and preparing for each job.

Your Long Term Prospects

Water jetters can progress to technician and supervisory levels or contract management positions. With experience self-employment is possible.

There may also be opportunities to work abroad on special contracts.

Get Further Information

ConstructionSkills
Tel: 0844 844 0046
Websites: www.cskills.org
and www.bconstructive.co.uk

ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Tel: 0844 576 8777
Website: www.cscs.uk.com

The Water Jetting Association (WJA),
PO Box 59451, London SE2 8AL
Tel: 020 8311 5508
Website: www.waterjetting.org.uk

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