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Demolition operative

  • Hours

    39 per week

  • Starting salary

    £17,000 + per year

Demolition operatives demolish and dismantle old and derelict structures and buildings. They also remove hazardous materials like asbestos, and carry out salvage and recycling operations.

If you have a head for heights, good practical skills and would like a job taking down buildings safely, this could be ideal for you.

You will need to be physically fit and able to work in a team. Some experience in construction, for example labouring or plant operation, will give you an advantage. A good general education will also be helpful. You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme.


Work activities

As a demolition operative, you can work in one of the following roles:

  • labourer – preparing the site, putting up rails and safety screens, laying dustsheets and separating out re-usable building materials after demolition
  • mattockman/mattockwoman – stripping out fittings, removing doors and windows, dismantling roof structures
  • topman/topwoman – does all the tasks of the others as well as cutting steel framework at heights, stripping off fragile roofs and instructing others in safe demolition practices.

You would use tools like hammer drills, oxyacetylene cutting equipment, plant machinery and explosives. You might also use crane-mounted industrial magnets to recover metals, burners to incinerate materials, and put concrete slabs through crushers to make aggregate for road building.

You would follow strict health and safety regulations at all times, and you would also be trained in the safe removal of hazardous materials like asbestos and toxic chemicals.

Working hours and conditions

You would work a basic 39-hour week, but you may be required to work overtime and weekends.

You could expect to work in all weather conditions, and the work can be dirty and dusty. You would always wear protective clothing on site. You might use specialist equipment, for example breathing apparatus when removing asbestos, or a safety harness when working at heights.

Work will involve travel from site to site and this may include overnight stays away from home.


Trainees can earn around £13,000 a year. With qualifications, this can rise to between £17,000 and £21,000. Experienced operatives can earn up to £25,000 a year.

Demolition operatives may earn much more for specialist duties, such as operating plant machinery or using explosives. Overtime and various allowances could also increase income.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements to become a demolition operative, though a background in general construction, as a labourer, plant operator or tradesperson, may give you an advantage when looking for work. You will need to be aged 18 or over to work in demolition.

You could apply for jobs directly with demolition contractors. Some employers may ask for GCSEs in maths, English, and design and technology, or equivalent qualifications.

You may be able to get into this career by completing a Apprenticeship in Demolition Plant Operation, offered by CITB. If you are under 18, you will start as a general plant operative, then move into demolition once you reach 18.

Visit the CITB and bConstructive websites for more information about demolition careers and training.

Training and development

Your employer will provide you with induction and safety training, covering areas such as asbestos control, accident prevention, electrical safety, fire prevention and control, and demolition regulations.

You may be encouraged to work towards the Level 2 (NVQ) Diploma in Demolition (Construction). This contains options in:

  • preparing and clearing work areas
  • demolishing concrete, timber, steel and brick structures
  • dismantling fragile roofs and cladding
  • moving and signalling loads safely
  • operating demolition plant machinery.

Most demolition sites require you to have a Certificate of Competence of Demolition Operatives (CCDO) card. This is linked to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and shows that you are qualified to do your job safely. There are different card levels, which reflect your experience and job tasks. These include:

  • trainee – aimed at new starters with less than 12 months' experience
  • labourer – you need a minimum of one year’s work experience and basic demolition knowledge
  • topman/topwoman – two years' experience, good depth of demolition knowledge plus a level 2 qualification.

Contact the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC), National Demolition Training Group (NDTG) or CITB for details about the card scheme and training courses.

Skills, interests and qualities

To be a demolition operative you should have:

  • a responsible attitude towards safe working practices
  • good fitness levels and a good head for heights
  • the ability to follow spoken and written instructions
  • practical skills
  • good teamworking skills
  • a knowledge of construction methods in order to take down buildings safely.

More information

National Federation of Demolition Contractors (Opens new window)
Resurgam House
Hemel Hempstead
Tel: 01442 217144

National Demolition Training Group (Opens new window)

CITB (Opens new window)
Tel: 0344 994 4400



Typical employers include specialist demolition contractors, and general building and civil engineering companies.

Vacancies may be advertised in the local press and at Jobcentre Plus offices, or you could contact companies directly. You can search for member companies on the NFDC website.

With experience you could progress into site supervision and management. With further training, you could specialise in a particular demolition method, such as explosives.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you’re looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.

Median income: Manufacturing
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 21381
Gender: Manufacturing
Female Male
17 83
Working pattern: Manufacturing
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
10 83 7
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Manufacturing
This sector All vacancies
22 23
Employment forecast: Manufacturing
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 603000
2015 583000
2016 569000
2017 554000
2018 538000
2019 523000
2020 508000

Jobs available on Universal Jobmatch

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