Job as a Street cleaner

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Martin Shaw is a street cleansing operative working for a street care services company in North London. Martin works in a team with one driver and three other street cleansing operatives.

Can you outline your role?

Along with my colleagues, I clean the streets of the London Borough of Haringey. I am part of a 'housing estates team', which means that we focus on keeping the housing estates in the borough clean and tidy.

Can you describe a typical day as a street cleaner?

I work full time from Monday to Friday. I start work at 7.30am by going to the yard, where I help the driver to place the tools that we use into the van.

We drive to each of the housing estates that are on our job schedule for that day and clean the roads, pavements and grass verges in those areas. The job involves picking up litter, sweeping leaves and generally clearing up any other mess that might be there. I use a shovel, a litter picker and a broom to pick and sweep up rubbish and then put it into a wheelie bin.

We also clear away any bulky items that have been dumped in the streets, such as televisions or fridges. When there is severe weather in the winter, we grid the roads of the housing estates we work on.

Once we've cleaned the estates, we take all the rubbish to an incinerator plans. At 3.00pm, we return to the yard and I help to unload the tools, and then go home.

Do you wear any special clothing?

I am given a uniform and I wear protective clothing including gloves, steel-toe-capped boots and a high-visibility jacket.

What qualities and skills do you need?

You need to be physically fit because you spend a lot of the day walking. You must be able to read a map so that you can give the driver directions, if necessary. Also, you need good interpersonal skills, as you interact with the general public on a daily basis.

What did your training involve?

I was given a working procedures information pack when I started the job. I learned a lot by working alongside experienced colleagues. I've also had training in specific topics, for example, in manual handling so that I can lift heavy items safely, in how to deal with sharp objects in waste, and about diseases such as leptospirosis – a disease in animals that can be passed to humans.

What do you enjoy about your work?

I enjoy working outside, which means that the days seem to go quickly. I like working outdoors in all the seasons, although it's not so much fun working in the rain.

I also get a feeling of satisfaction when I've made the housing estate as clean as possible.

Although it's an early start every day, I finish work in the middle of the afternoon when most people are still working.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to continue working as a street cleansing operative in Haringey for as long as possible. I might learn to drive soon, so once I've passed my test and gained some driving experience, I might be able to become a driver with one of the street cleansing teams.

Martin's route to becoming a street cleaner

  • Left school and got temporary post as street cleansing operative with Haringey Council through an employment agency.
  • Gained permanent position with Haringey Council. Transferred his company took over street cleansing from the council.

Martin's tip

  • Make sure you're right for the job before you do it.
  • You won't like it if you cannot cope with all types of weather conditions.

Street cleaner related jobs

  • Cleaner
  • Materials reclamation officer
  • Recycling operative
  • Refuse collector
  • Window cleaner

Salary of a Street cleaner

  • Street cleaners usually earn from about £10,800.
  • With some experience, they may earn up to about £14,000.
  • The most senior operatives, or those who operate specialist equipment, can earn up to £17,500.
  • These figures are only a guide, as salaries vary regionally.
  • Pay tends to be higher in London.

Getting in

  • No formal qualifications are required, but physical fitness and an ability to deal with the general public are important.
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old. A driving licence is required for jobs driving sweeping vehicles, and for the largest vehicles a heavy goods vehicle licence is necessary.
  • Street cleaners train on the job. While at work, they can work towards qualifications such as NVQs/SVQs in Cleaning and Support Services. Some may start through an Apprenticeship.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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