Birmingham road workers' plea to end abuse

A Kier operative in Birmingham

Organisations that work together to improve Birmingham's roads have launched a new campaign to urge the public to respect their workers.

Expect Respect has come about in response to the 465 incidents of road worker abuse that have been reported in Birmingham in the last three years.

The incidents include residents threatening road workers with weapons, such as machetes, crossbows and dogs.

In one incident, a driver threatened to chop off an operative’s head with an electric handsaw unless he was allowed through a closed road.

One worker was shot at with a pellet gun, while another regularly receives homophobic abuse. 

The campaign highlights how road workers are there to do a critical job to improve the roads and environment for communities living in the city, and every single person deserves to go home to their families safe and well at the end of each shift. 

Paul, a site supervisor for Kier Highways, said: “The people I work with are not confrontational. They are good people, there to do a job that they have been instructed to do. Yet they have been threatened with machetes, shot at, driven at, had things thrown at them.

“And what for? Just because somebody wants to drive down the road that must be closed for safety reasons?

“Road workers are there to do a job and earn a living. We should respect that and afford the people in these jobs the right to earn that living.”

Expect Respect features stories from five different operatives who work across Birmingham. They each tell their lived experience of abuse and call on the public to make a change to their behaviour. 

The campaign has been launched by the Integrated Programme Alliance (IPA), which delivers vital network improvement works across the city and was established by Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Highways Ltd, together with Kier, Arcadis, Tarmac, Highway Traffic Management (HTM) and WJ Group.  

It is also supported by Councillor Liz Clements, cabinet member for transport at Birmingham City Council.

Cllr Clements said: “Everyone working on our highways network is doing an important job – and all of their tasks are carried out for the people of our city and those using our roads.

“That is why it is totally unacceptable that they are subject to any form of abuse. Some of the incidents that have been reported are shocking and horrific, which is exactly why I back this campaign.”

Birmingham Highways Ltd (BHL) manages and maintains the roads in the city. To support road workers and to provide the police with better evidence, BHL has invested in CCTV towers, body cameras and warning systems to alert workers when people or vehicles enter a live work site. 

Dave Pugh, technical director at Birmingham Highways Limited, added: “Over 800 people across our IPA teams are working hard to improve the standards of the roads in Birmingham, and they deserve our respect.

"The work they do is vital to the safety and efficiency of our roads, and we hope that the proud people of Birmingham will support our workers and call out any incidences of abuse or assault to collectively help stamp out this shocking behaviour.”

Road workers on the contract receive regular training on public interactions and how to keep these positive, as well as incident reporting training and these messages are being reinforced throughout the campaign.

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