Lock keeper

Lock keepers open and close lock gates on canals and rivers to allow leisure and commercial boats to pass through.

Average annual salary (starting - experienced): Variable

Typical hours (a week): 45 - 47

How to become a lock keeper

You can get into this job through:

  • volunteering
  • applying directly

Volunteering & Experience

Working as a volunteer lock keeper during the busier summer months is a good way to start, and you'll be trained on the job in lock operations and safety.

Direct application

There are no formal entry requirements for this job so you can apply directly. You'll need to be friendly and approachable.

More info

Further information The Canal & River Trust has more information about work and volunteering opportunities.

What it takes

Skills & Knowledge

You'll need:

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you'll do

Day to day

Your day-to-day duties may include: 

  • managing lock bookings from waterway users approaching the locks
  • opening and closing lock gates safely by hand or using a computer
  • carrying out general maintenance on lock mechanisms
  • opening relief sluices in bad weather or flooding 
  • clearing rubbish and weeds from the lock
  • giving advice to waterway users in person or by radio
  • reporting incidents like fly-tipping, poaching and damage to wildlife
  • talking to community groups and schools about your work

Working environment

You could work on rivers and canals. Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding. You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment and a uniform.

Career path and progression

Career path & progression

With experience, you may be able to move into coordinating volunteer training or deal with fundraising for waterway conservation projects.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
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