Resurfacing work was abandoned on the 20th August on Beighton Road Woodhouse, Sheffield, after a highways worker was allegedly assaulted, then threatened with a ‘large knife’.
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “An incident was called in to us at 9.55 pm following a disturbance at Beighton Road, Woodhouse
“There had been an altercation between a member of the public and a member of the maintenance crew, aged 60 who suffered minor injuries.
The PFI contract, which is operated by Safer Highways founder member Amey, had been carrying out minor works when an incursion into a closure occurred and a member of the public began acting aggressively towards one of the operatives carrying out the works which escalated into the use of a weapon - assumed to be with the intent of doing physical harm.
Abuse - both physical and verbal - is an issue which is becoming more and more prevalent due to the public backlash during the lockdown and as such this is simply one more example of the disconnect between the workforce and the road using public.
Amey said there have also been other incidents where a car drove through a road closure, ignoring attempts by on-site workers to stop the driver.
It comes after a survey found 62 per cent of Sheffield residents admitted to not being ‘as safety conscious as they should be when negotiating roadworks’ – comapred to the UK average of 59 per cent.
Melissa Wise, operations director at Streets Ahead said: “We’ve had numerous incidents involving threats of physical violence and actual physical violence to our workforce and our sub-contractors. We’ve also had operatives who have been clipped by cars as they’ve sped past,” added Melissa.
“With the number of vehicles on our roads continuing to rise each year, and with darker nights and wintry conditions on the horizon, we want to remind Sheffield drivers to take extra care when travelling around roadworks and always put safety first.”
The findings echo recent research undertaken by Highways England, which revealed a catalogue of serious incidents and near-misses across the country, ranging from motorists driving into coned-off areas, to physical and verbal abuse of workers.
Ms Wise said: “Whilst the figures for Sheffield are just above the national average, there’s still a long way to go to ensure that our workers feel completely safe when carrying out their job on the city’s roads.
“Our programme of works is vast and we’re often working across multiple locations throughout Sheffield at one time. What’s more, we regularly carry out work during night time hours to avoid further disruption during peak travel times. However, this poses its own challenges for our teams, particularly during the winter when it’s darker and weather conditions are more unpredictable.
“The majority of people do drive responsibly but there has been a number of incidents where restrictions or diversions have been ignored, which is not acceptable or safe.
Speaking about the latest in a long line of incidendents Safer Highways Chief Executive, Kevin Robinson, said,
”Abuse of our roadworkers has been a long standing systemic problem and something which we know is not exactly high on the agenda of those who police our network.
”The imapct this is massive, not just physically, but also mentally on those we put to work and as such should not be underestimated.
“We need, as an industry to act.
”We need to campaign for a change in the law, an education piece for the road user and we need to encourage our people to speak up and say ‘this is not acceptable’.
These men resurfacing our roads are human beings with families, just like you and I and do not deserve the abhorrent levels of abuse they are subjected to on a daily basis.”
Extracts of the article, including viewpoints, were not written by the Safer Highways Team