Career Development

What Does a Sanitation Worker Do?

Find out what a sanitation worker does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a sanitation worker.

Sanitation workers are responsible for keeping our communities clean and safe. They spend their days picking up trash, sweeping streets, emptying dumpsters, and performing other sanitation-related tasks.

Sanitation workers may work alone or as part of a larger team. Their duties may vary depending on the type of community they serve (e.g., residential vs. commercial). Regardless of where they work, sanitation workers must be able to follow detailed instructions while working quickly and efficiently under pressure.

Sanitation Worker Job Duties

Sanitation workers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Collecting recyclable materials from businesses, homes, and other locations where people dispose of their waste
  • Completing regular maintenance on vehicles, equipment, and facilities such as garages
  • Cleaning public areas such as streets, sidewalks, parks, or other outdoor areas
  • Operating machinery such as front loaders, forklift trucks, and backhoes to move heavy materials
  • Reporting any unsafe conditions they observe while performing their duties
  • Collecting garbage from bins or dumpsters or recycling bins, or collecting recyclable materials from clients’ homes or businesses
  • Collecting recyclable materials from businesses, homes, and other locations where people dispose of their waste
  • Cleaning restrooms using disinfectants, mops, brooms, leaf blowers, or vacuum cleaners
  • Dumping trash into bins or onto trucks for pickup by a hauling company

Sanitation Worker Salary & Outlook

Sanitation worker salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location. Sanitation workers who are members of labor unions typically earn more than non-union workers.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,122 ($23.62/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $95,000 ($45.67/hour)

The employment of sanitation workers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

The need to clean up and rebuild after natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, should create some new jobs for sanitation workers. In addition, continued population growth will require more infrastructure projects, such as sewer and water lines, which should also support employment growth.

Sanitation Worker Job Requirements

A sanitation worker typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Sanitation workers are typically required to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a post-secondary program in sanitation or environmental health. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and teach students about environmental health, waste management, hazardous waste disposal and other sanitation-related topics.

Training & Experience: Most employers will provide on-the-job training for sanitation workers. This training will teach you how to use the equipment and perform the duties of the job. Training may last for a few days to a few weeks, depending on the company and the job.

Certifications & Licenses: Some states require sanitation workers to get licensed or certified to work in the sanitation department of a public agency or for a private sanitation company. The certification process varies from state to state.

Sanitation Worker Skills

Sanitation workers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Attention to detail: Sanitation workers must be able to pay attention to detail when performing their duties. This includes keeping records of their work, following safety protocols and properly disposing of waste. Attention to detail can also help sanitation workers notice any issues with their equipment or vehicles so they can get them fixed as soon as possible.

Communication skills: Sanitation workers must be able to communicate with their coworkers, supervisors and members of the public. They must be able to clearly explain their duties, answer questions and provide directions. Sanitation workers must also be able to communicate with the public in a friendly and professional manner.

Physical stamina: Sanitation workers often walk long distances and lift heavy objects. They also often work outdoors in varying weather conditions. Having physical stamina can help sanitation workers complete their work duties efficiently.

Problem-solving skills: Sanitation workers may encounter challenges throughout their workday, such as a malfunctioning piece of equipment or a difficult-to-access area. Having strong problem-solving skills can help sanitation workers find solutions to these issues and continue working productively.

Teamwork: Sanitation workers often work in teams to complete their duties. They may work with other sanitation workers, as well as other employees in other departments. Being able to work well with others is an important skill for sanitation workers to have.

Sanitation Worker Work Environment

Sanitation workers typically work 40 hours per week, but may work overtime during busy periods. They work outdoors in all weather conditions and are exposed to unpleasant odors. They may work early morning hours or late at night, and may be on call 24 hours a day. Sanitation workers must be able to lift heavy objects and perform strenuous physical labor. They also must be able to work safely and follow instructions carefully to avoid injuries.

Sanitation Worker Trends

Here are three trends influencing how sanitation workers work. Sanitation workers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Workforce

The sanitation industry is facing a major diversity problem. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3% of all sanitation workers are African American, and only 1% are Hispanic. This lack of diversity can have negative effects on both the workplace and the community as a whole.

To address this issue, sanitation companies need to be more proactive about recruiting minorities into their workforce. They can do this by reaching out to schools and communities that are underrepresented in the industry, and by creating programs that encourage students to consider careers in sanitation.

A Greater Focus on Sustainability

As society becomes increasingly concerned with sustainability, the sanitation industry will need to focus on ways to reduce its impact on the environment.

One way that sanitation workers can do this is by using technologies that help them to recycle waste materials. This includes using machines that break down food scraps and other organic material so that it can be used as fertilizer or fuel. In addition, sanitation workers can also focus on reducing the amount of trash that they produce by recycling as much as possible.

More Attention to Employee Wellness Programs

Employers are increasingly focusing on employee wellness programs as a way to improve productivity and reduce costs. These programs often include initiatives such as health screenings, exercise facilities, and healthy dining options.

Sanitation workers can take advantage of these programs by becoming certified in cleaning and maintenance services. This will allow them to work for employers who value employee wellness and want to provide resources to support it.

How to Become a Sanitation Worker

A career as a sanitation worker can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to start your journey by learning the basics of the job, such as how to operate heavy machinery and handle waste materials. You should also take the time to get to know your community and its residents so that you can provide the best possible service.

As you progress in your career, you may want to specialize in certain areas, such as recycling or hazardous waste disposal. You can also become certified in first aid and CPR to help ensure the safety of yourself and your coworkers.

The most important thing is to stay motivated and keep learning new things. Never stop looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your productivity.

Advancement Prospects

Most sanitation workers start out as entry-level laborers. With experience, they may be promoted to lead worker, supervisor, or manager. Some may become interested in environmental engineering and, with additional education, move into that field.

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