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‘This is not an isolated incident’: Verbal abuse against road workers taking breaks increases

PUBLISHED: 17:06 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:17 10 August 2018

Road workers in Bury St Edmunds Picture: GREGG BROWN

Road workers in Bury St Edmunds Picture: GREGG BROWN

Verbal abuse against council road crews who are taking breaks has increased so much throughout the recent heatwave that teams have been issued with body cameras to capture footage of the incidents.

Suffolk Highways has been campaigning against roadworker abuse over recent weeks as staff have been encouraged to take extra breaks in the hot weather.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) says teams have also been provided with information on “conflict resolution” so they can try to diffuse any abusive behaviour.

Highways has adjusted the working hours of road crews to enable them to start earlier in the day and finish before temperatures reach their highest in early afternoon.

This has included 6am starts on Felixstowe Road in Ipswich and 4am starts on surface dressing sites.

Suffolk Highways says road crews are now wearing body cameras to capture footage of the abuse Picture: GREGG BROWNSuffolk Highways says road crews are now wearing body cameras to capture footage of the abuse Picture: GREGG BROWN

SCC says working in high temperatures is a considerable risk to teams, particularly as they are required to wear protective clothing while dealing with hot materials such as tarmac.

Mike Thompson, general manager for Suffolk Highways, said the authority considered the behaviour “unacceptable”.

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident with a number of our teams reporting an increase in abuse,” he said.

“This is unacceptable and we have had to resort to other methods to mitigate this issue.

Roadworks on Nacton road, Ipswich. Verbal abuse has increased against road crews Picture: ARCHANTRoadworks on Nacton road, Ipswich. Verbal abuse has increased against road crews Picture: ARCHANT

“Teams are now wearing body cameras to capture footage and site specific “CCTV in operation” signs have been put in place to deter the abusers.

“We have also provided our teams with information on “conflict resolution” so they can try and diffuse any abusive behaviour.”

He added: “It is really sad that we have to resort to such methods, but the safety of our workforce is paramount and all we would ask is that the public are patient whilst we try to improve and/or repair the highways and footways.”

Earlier this week, SCC posted a video of a road crew hard at work, with the message: “Huge respect to our teams working on Suffolk’s roads in this weather.

“Sadly we’ve had reports that they’re receiving verbal abuse. Please remember they’re working eight hours with hot materials, in full protective gear and very little access to shade – breaks are essential.”

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