Demolition operative

Demolition operatives dismantle structures and buildings, remove hazardous materials, and carry out salvage operations.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £14,000 to £30,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 39 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements, but you’ll need to be at least 18.

Experience in general construction, as a labourer, plant operator or tradesperson, might be helpful.

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

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

You’ll need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on most sites. 

You’ll need to be physically fit with good eyesight and hearing, and no dust allergies. 

A driving licence could be useful. 

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and bConstructive have more information about demolition careers and training.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to follow spoken and written instructions
  • practical skills
  • good teamworking skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll 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 or mattockwoman – stripping out fittings, removing doors and windows, dismantling roof structures
  • topman or 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’ll 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’ll also be trained in the safe removal of hazardous materials like asbestos and toxic chemicals.

4. Salary

Starter: £14,000

Experienced: £21,000 to £24,000

Highly Experienced: £30,000

You may earn more for specialist duties, like operating plant machinery or using explosives. 

Overtime and other allowances can also increase income.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work a 39-hour week, but you may be required to work overtime and weekends.

You’ll work in all weather conditions, and the work can be dirty and dusty. 

You’ll always wear protective clothing on site. You might use specialist equipment, like breathing apparatus when removing asbestos, or a safety harness when working at height.

The work is physically demanding.

You’ll travel from site to site and may stay overnight away from home.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could progress into site supervision and management.

With further training, you could specialise in a particular demolition method, like explosives.

Last updated: 03 October 2016