Hampshire County Council is urging people to respect its frontline highways workforce in an effort to reduce the number of incidents of verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and aggressive behaviour by members of the public
Councillor Russell Oppenheimer, the County Council’s Executive Member for Highways Operations said: “I have been profoundly shocked at recent reports I’ve received where highways crews have been the victims of someone’s frustration and road rage.
“No-one should have to be subjected to abuse or threats of any kind while they are working hard to repair and maintain our highways and footways. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and to return home safely, and we are appealing to people to have consideration for our frontline staff who are often working in difficult conditions.”
On a typical given day, 400 Hampshire Highways employees are working on Hampshire’s roads and footways.
Reported cases of abuse towards Hampshire Highways staff have risen by 16% in 2020 compared to the same period last year, and this is despite lower traffic flows as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and resulting changes in travel behaviour.
One highway engineer recalled: “I telephoned a landowner to discuss some unauthorised work that had taken place on the public highway. During the call the customer went from being courteous to incredibly abusive in an instant for no reason at all. I was also personally threatened by the customer who offered to meet me so he could ‘kick my head in’ and stated if he ever saw me or any other Hampshire County Council officer near his land, he would do the same. It was a shock and definitely unsettled me for a few days.”
A senior manager in Highways had this story to tell: “I went to a site to look into the illegal use of highway land. A man came out, saw me and started to verbally threaten me. When I tried to drive away the man blocked the road, continuing the verbal abuse toward me. I reported that situation to the police.”
Cllr Oppenheimer concluded: “Our highways teams keep Hampshire moving, 24 hours a day, seven days a week regardless of whatever the weather throws at them. They deserve our respect and appreciation for the complex and sometimes dangerous work they do day-in and day-out to enable people to get to work, keep families connected and enable the emergency services to get to incidents quickly. This also benefits Hampshire’s economy. Verbal abuse, violence, threats or aggression cannot be accepted or tolerated. Any instances will be immediately reported to the police and we would ask residents who witness such behaviour to do the same, using the non-emergency 101 number – unless there is a threat to life of course in which case the emergency 999 number should be used.”
Safer Highways, the organisation set up to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of road workers and road users has a campaign to eradicate road worker abuse-www.stampitout.org. It also has also launched the Highways Heroes Awards, taking place in London on December 2nd.