Paul Fleetham, Managing Director of Tarmac Construction, gives his views on wide an industry-wide approach to eliminating road worker abuse.
Our road workers deserve respect. Our Road teams build and maintain the infrastructure that keeps the Great British public moving. It is their hard work and dedication that keeps the nation connected, enabling the transport of services and goods essential to the economy and the health and wellbeing of all of us.
However, all too often the contribution our teams make to society are taken for granted. This is partly understandable as the work they do goes largely unnoticed, because it is usually undertaken at night when works are less likely to disrupt the travelling public.
How often do we stop and appreciate the improvements our road workers make to our daily lives?
From the pavements that allow us to walk our children to school safely, to our roads that give our healthcare workers a way to reach us when we desperately need their help or the superfast fibre broadband that enables us to work from home and stay safe.
The contributions our road workers make have been more valuable than ever during the current Covid-19 crisis and I am pleased to see this recognised by the government who awarded our road teams ‘Key Worker’ status. This was vital in permitting our teams to continue working in accordance with our Covid-secure protocols during lockdowns – keeping the road network open and safe for fellow Key Workers.
I would now like to see this ‘Key Worker’ status extended into law to ensure our road teams are afforded the same protection from abuse that our other key workers are, such as, police officers, ambulance drivers, and nurses. By aligning the penalties for abuse against road workers with that of abuse against other key workers it will act as a deterrent and create the step-change in public opinion that is needed to keep our road teams safe. Abuse is never acceptable, and nobody should have to experience it as part of their daily working lives. The works we carry out on the nation’s road network does sometimes cause delays to the travelling public or require a road closure preventing access to areas. This can cause frustration and annoyance, nonetheless for our teams to be threatened, verbally abused and even assaulted by members of the public is not acceptable and not part the job!
Shockingly, the incidents of road worker abuse and site incursions are becoming more frequent and commonplace. I know from my own experience working on road construction sites that these incidents happen all too often.
One incident this month saw a motorist, refused access to a road closure, verbally abuse one of our road construction team before wounding him with a large knife. A construction worker who was just doing his job, positively contributing to society by repairing a failed section of road so it could be returned to public use.
This is one of many examples and the extent, severity and impact of these incidents cannot be underestimated often having a lasting psychological impact on the individuals involved. Individuals who are dedicated to ensuring our roads, the nation’s arteries, keep traffic flowing.
Throughout my time as Managing Director of Tarmac Construction, road worker abuse and incursions have been a constant concern, and I and my teams continue to do all we can to protect our people. However, to make a real and long-lasting difference we need the industry and the Great British public to come together and say enough is enough, protect our essential workers and stamp it out!