Single barrow


The Road Sweeper pushing his single barrow is a common sight in cities and towns around the UK, not noticed as he quietly makes his way around his "barrow beat". The tools of this trade having changed little since Victorian times, the barrows are lighter with the use of plastic and alloys, the addition of the "litter-picker" being the latest tool in his arsenal.

There are numerous machines used in street cleansing today, but, they are limited in what they can do in the congested city streets, so, the "single-barrow" still plays an important role in many local authority street cleansing operations.

Much maligned, little appreciated, sometimes the victim of abuse and street crime, the road sweeper's role is not an easy one, probably the only well-known UK road sweeper being Trigger from "Only Fools and Horses".

Working outside in all weathers, you will need to be physically fit and not easily angered by the public who will think nothing of dropping litter on your newly swept pavement. There is a lot of job satisfaction as you transform an eyesore to a clean street, you may even get praise from the public for your hard work. There is much camaraderie between street cleansing staff, you're all in the same boat and may need to help each other out when situations arise.

The busiest time of year is the "leafing season" from September to December, it is at this time of year that temporary staff are usually taken on to cope with the extra work, even outside this period trees drop leaves, branches, blossom, seeds and fruit in abundance, a tree-lined street looks nice, but, can be hard work all the year round.

With many local authorities contracting out their street cleansing to the private sector the usual benefits assoicated with working in the public sector no longer apply. Most road sweepers start as agency workers on minimum wage, even in London (so much for the London living wage many full-time sweepers in London still do not earn this). If you are considered to be a good worker you may eventually get a permanent job, don't hold your breath, you may have to work a few years before getting permanent status. Legislation covering agency workers may improve their lot.

Most employers are very strict on "health and safety", they cover themselves well, any injury you sustain at work will be your own fault. Uniforms are supplied, although safety boots may not be supplied to agency staff.

Tools of the Trade
Gulley or channel broom - a narrow coarse broom for sweeping the gulley (the bit of road next to the kerb)
Path broom - wide soft broom for sweeping pavements
Pick up broom - small broom used to push sweepings onto the shovel
Shovel - usually plastic, for shoveling sweepings into the sweeper's bag
Litter picker - for picking up litter, sometimes used to put syringes into sharps box
Sharps box - for containing syringes or sharp blades
Tweezers or tongs - used to put syringes into sharps box
Gloves - to be worn at all times
Wipes - for cleaning hands before you eat or smoke
Hi Viz - jacket or waistcoat.

Crossing Sweepers
19th Century "crossing sweepers" were sometimes little more than beggars who would sweep a path across the dirty city streets for the well healed.
Often considered a nusuiance.

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Sweeping Links

Street cleaner dies BBC News

Letter from a London street cleaner

Six street cleaners arrested as cops foil plot to kill the Pope

Owner of stolen Rolex praises roadsweeper Southend Standard

Street cleaner made redundant by council is handed job back thanks to appeal by three-year-old boy - Mail Online

A different life Cyprus mail - Cuts in street cleaning linked to rise in anti-social behaviour

A working life: The street cleaner - The Guardian

Street cleaning services - The Guardian

Street cleaner - The Guardian

cut finger to cost council 100k BBC News

King of the road - The Guardian

Allan's clean sweep - Metro

Road sweeper Mike

Poetic road sweeper - The Telegraph

Sweeping away illiteracy - BBC London

Buried in her uniform - Manchester Evening News

Street sweeper swaps broom - Southwark News

The ring road hermit - BBC

Confessions of a Bangkok - Expatrockstar

The Good Streetsweeper

Hero road sweeper - Manchester evening news

Chinese road sweeper - UniqueDaily

Beatles' former right-hand man - Mail Online


Holding out for a hero!

Street sweep truck sucks up dog - BBC news

Stamp collector sues - East Kilbride News

Sweeper branded an illegal immigrant - Islington Tribune

Brooms and Lollipops Protest in Kilburn - Greenfeed

Bench remembers street sweeper - Westminster Chronicle

Road sweeping dog - The Argus

Sweeper with law degree

Sweeping star - The Sun

Street sweeper fearful - Chronicle

Effective Street Cleansing

Job as a Street cleaner


The British Cleaning Council

QCF Qualifications for Street Cleansing Operatives

Plane crash lands on top of him - Daily Mail

World Sweeper - US sweeping site