How to become a demolition operative (with skills and FAQs)

Updated 11 August 2023

If you enjoy working with your hands, you might consider a career as a demolition operative. These skilled individuals require technical training to work with demolition materials safely, and the career offers many opportunities for advancement. Understanding more about the role of a demolition operative can help you determine whether it's the right career path for you. In this article, we explain what a demolition operative is and how to become one, examine their core skills and duties and answer some FAQs regarding the role.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore jobs on Indeed
Part-time jobs
View more jobs on Indeed

What is a demolition operative?

A demolition operative is responsible for safely dismantling and removing buildings, bridges and other structures. They typically use various tools, including hydraulic excavators, cranes, bulldozers and explosives. Demolition operatives have a strong understanding of building materials, structural engineering and safety procedures. They're typically physically fit, as their work can be physically demanding. They also have a broad skill set and extensive experience to ensure that they demolish structures safely and efficiently while minimising the impact on the surrounding environment.

Related: What is project management for construction? (Plus types)

Find demolition operative jobs

How to become a demolition operative

If you want to know how to become a demolition operative, consider the following steps:

1. Gain construction and demolition experience

Prospective demolition operatives require relevant experience, as the role requires specific knowledge and skills to carry out various construction and demolition processes. Consider gaining practical experience in construction by working in the industry as a labourer or plant operator, for example. This experience can provide you with valuable hands-on knowledge of how to construct buildings and structures and use the necessary tools and techniques.

Practical experience is necessary for becoming a successful demolition operative because it provides foundational knowledge you can't obtain through theoretical learning. It enables you to develop your skills practically and gives you a deeper understanding of the work a demolition operative does. Many training programmes and apprenticeships require candidates to have a certain amount of experience in the field before they can apply.

Related: 18 different construction job types for you to consider

2. Obtain relevant qualifications

Demolition operatives require certifications to demonstrate that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the job safely and effectively. For example, you require certifications to operate heavy machinery, handle hazardous materials and work in confined spaces. Having these certifications minimises the risk of accidents and injuries occurring on job sites. Many employers also require you to have more specific certifications, so check the descriptions of the jobs you want to apply for.

The following are some of the certifications that prospective demolition operatives can obtain:

  • Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card: A CPCS card demonstrates that you have the skills and knowledge to operate heavy machinery, such as excavators and bulldozers.

  • Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card and an Asbestos Awareness certification: A CSCS card demonstrates that you have the required training and qualifications to work in the construction industry. You also require the Asbestos Awareness certification to work in the demolition industry due to the high risk of asbestos exposure.

  • Level 2 Demolition Operative Certification: This certification provides you with the skills and knowledge relating to safety procedures, tools and personal protective equipment (PPE) that you require to demolish structures.

Related: What is construction project management? Tools and stages

3. Complete an apprenticeship

You can find demolition operative apprenticeships by searching the Construction Industry Training Board, which offers apprenticeships in the construction industry. Apprenticeships typically involve a combination of classroom training and on-the-job experience, providing job candidates with both foundational education and hands-on experience. Completing an apprenticeship allows you to gain practical experience while earning an industry-recognised qualification. Working alongside experienced individuals and developing critical skills in a practical setting can also help you become a more competitive job candidate.

4. Apply for demolition roles

After obtaining certifications and completing an apprenticeship, apply for demolition operative roles. Tailor your CV to match the employer's requirements by reading the job description carefully. To increase your chances of getting an interview, emphasise any experience you have in the industry and relevant training, or highlight any certifications you've obtained. Use keywords from the job description in your application to optimise it for applicant tracking systems, which companies may use to screen CVs. You may also follow up with the company after submitting your application to express your continued interest in the role.

Related: 15 reasons specifications in construction are essential

What does a demolition operative do?

To further understand how to become a demolition operative, consider the following duties of the role:

  • conducting site assessments to identify potential hazards

  • removing and disposing of hazardous materials, such as asbestos

  • operating machinery and equipment, such as excavators and bulldozers

  • demolishing structures according to safety regulations and industry standards

  • using hand tools to remove fixtures, fittings and other materials

  • safely transporting and disposing of demolition waste

  • communicating with team members and supervisors to coordinate tasks

  • maintaining and inspecting machinery and equipment to ensure safe and efficient operation

  • following safety procedures and wearing protective equipment at all times

  • monitoring the work environment for potential safety hazards

  • conducting controlled explosions to demolish structures

  • maintaining a clean and orderly work site

  • preparing reports on demolition progress and safety incidents

  • guiding and supporting junior demolition operatives

Related: 10 high-paid construction jobs and their responsibilities

Demolition operative skills

To work as a demolition operative, candidates typically require the following skills:

  • proficiency in operating heavy machinery

  • knowledge of demolition techniques, including explosive demolition and manual demolition

  • the ability to read and interpret construction blueprints and schematics

  • expertise in using demolition tools and equipment

  • knowledge of safety procedures and regulations in the demolition industry

  • an understanding of hazardous material removal and disposal procedures

  • knowledge of building materials and their properties

  • proficiency in handheld power tools

  • the ability to identify and handle dangerous materials, such as asbestos and lead

  • the ability to follow specific instructions and project plans

  • strong communication skills

  • the ability to work well in a team and contribute to a positive work environment

  • good time management skills

  • strong problem-solving skills to overcome unexpected challenges

  • attention to detail to ensure safety and prevent mistakes

  • the ability to adapt to changing project needs and timelines

  • good leadership skills to guide junior demolition operatives

  • excellent physical fitness and stamina to withstand long hours and physically demanding work

  • a strong work ethic and commitment to safety

  • the ability to listen and follow instructions

  • good interpersonal skills

Demolition operative FAQs

The following are answers to some FAQs about demolition operatives:

How long does it take to become a certified demolition operative?

The time it takes to become a certified demolition operative varies depending on several factors. Typically, it takes several months to a year to complete the necessary training and gain practical experience in the field. The certification process may also depend on the type of certification you're pursuing. For example, you can typically complete a Level 2 Demolition Operative certification in a few months, while it may take longer to complete a Level 3 Demolition Supervisor certification. To become a supervisor, expect a longer training and education process.

Related: 9 popular construction careers (plus duties and salaries)

What kind of PPE do demolition operatives wear?

PPE is essential for demolition operatives due to the inherent risks associated with their work. The type of PPE required may vary depending on the job and site. It typically includes the following:

  • a hard hat to protect against head injuries from falling debris or objects

  • safety glasses or goggles to protect the eyes from flying debris or dust

  • a face shield to protect the face from flying debris, dust or chemical exposure

  • a respirator to prevent the inhalation of dust or airborne particles

  • earplugs or earmuffs to protect the ears from loud noises from heavy machinery

  • steel-toed boots to protect the feet from falling objects or heavy equipment

  • protective gloves to protect the hands from sharp objects, chemicals or other hazards

  • high-visibility clothing to increase visibility and safety on site

Explore your next job opportunity on IndeedFind jobs

Related articles

What does a general operative do? (Plus skills and salary)

Explore more articles

  • How to become a property manager (plus definition)
  • Demi chef de partie meaning, with duties, salary and skills
  • How to get headhunted and is it good for your career?
  • The best careers for INFP personality types (plus traits)
  • Psychologist vs. psychiatrist: What's the difference?
  • The role of a community mental health nurse (with duties)
  • How to become a sustainability consultant (With steps)
  • How to become a chartered engineer (with definition)
  • What Is Job Sharing?
  • A guide to work in New Zealand (with overview and FAQs)
  • 15 jobs in early childhood education (salary and duties)
  • How To Explain Employment Gaps Due to COVID-19