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Demolition Operative

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Demolition Operative

The Work

As a demolition operative you would demolish or dismantle old and derelict structures or buildings. 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/woman – stripping out fittings, removing doors and windows, dismantling roof structures
  • Topman/woman – all the tasks above 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, 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.

Hours and Environment

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.

Skills and Interests

  • 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.


Although there are no set entry requirements to become a demolition operative, a background in general construction, as a labourer or tradesperson, may be helpful when looking for work.

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 demolition operative Apprenticeship, offered by CITB-Construction Skills. If you are under 18, you would be trained as a construction plant operative, as you would need to be at least 18 to work as a demolition operative.

For more information about the demolition operative Apprenticeship, and general information on construction careers and qualifications visit the ConstructionSkills website.


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

You may be encouraged to work towards the NVQ in Demolition at level 2, which 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 now require you to have a Certificate of Competence of Demolition Operatives (CCDO) card. This is linked to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and shows that you are qualified to do your job safely. There are seven card levels, which reflect your experience and job tasks, including:

  • Labourer – you need a minimum of one year’s work experience and basic demolition knowledge
  • Mattockman/woman – two years' experience, adequate demolition knowledge plus NVQ Level 2 (limited units)
  • Topman/woman – two years' experience, good depth of demolition knowledge plus NVQ Level 2 (all units).

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


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

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

With experience you could progress to 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: (links open in new window)

Demolition News
Demolition Jobs
Directgov (Jobseekers page)

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Trainees can earn around £12,500 a year.
  • With qualifications, this can rise to between £13,000 and £18,000.
  • Experienced operatives can earn up to £23,000 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.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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