A street sweeper is someone who keeps the streets clean and free of debris, for safety, aesthetic, and health reasons. Usually, no special education is required to become a street sweeper, although many hold high school diplomas, and training is provided on the job. Street sweepers can work for government agencies such as the public works department in addition to private companies which offer street sweeping services.
Historically, street sweepers literally swept the streets with brooms and dustbins, removing debris to keep the streets and sidewalks clean. In the modern era, most street sweepers operate street sweeping machines which have automated the process. These large machines include brooms and powerwashers to clean the streets, and they typically run set routes at scheduled times to ensure that all of the streets in a city are cleaned, although alleys may not be covered because the sweeping machines may not fit.
Street sweepers who work by hand are still found in some regions of the world. These street sweepers handle both streets and sidewalks with brooms and debris collectors. They can also work in private parking lots and on the grounds of private companies, ensuring that trafficked areas are kept clean and tidy. Amusement parks, for example, employ an army of street sweepers to keep streets and paths clean for the enjoyment of guests.
In the case of a street sweeper who drives a street sweeper machine, he or she steers the machine along the route, and addresses any obstacles in the street which are too large for the machine to handle. Street sweepers may also be empowered to ticket cars parked in restricted zones during sweeping hours, or they can contact police officers to request that they write a ticket. These public works employees also take note of problems such as potholes which may need to be addressed by a road crew.
Many towns and cities provide street sweeping as a municipal service, recognizing the need for clean streets. In smaller towns, coverage may be provided by neighboring municipalities as a public service, or residents may raise funds to pay a street sweeping firm to clean their streets periodically. When streets are left unswept, debris and garbage can accumulate alarmingly quickly, underscoring the need for regular street sweeping. The salary for a street sweeper tends to be low, because the job is considered unskilled labor, but municipal jobs often come with benefits like health care, retirement, and paid vacation days.