Number of injured road workers in England doubles

By David Whiteley
BBC Inside Out

  • Published

The number of injuries to road workers on motorways and trunk roads in England more than doubled between 2005 and 2009, a BBC Inside Out East investigation has found.

Figures from the Highways Agency showed injuries increased from 50 in 2005 to 110 in 2009, but the number of fatalities fell from five to one.

Carl Stephenson, from Lowestoft, was working on the A47 in Norfolk in an impact protection vehicle when it was struck by lorry travelling at more than 50mph (80km/h) in November 2009.

Mr Stephenson suffered back injuries and was off work for some months with trauma.

He said: "On initial impact I was thrown forward… braced against the wheel…. I'd bent the steering wheel, trying to steer it away. When everything's over you're like that, am I alive?"

Speeding motorists

Road workers operate behind an impact protection vehicle, designed to act as a cushion. It absorbs the impact of a crash and is the best protection available to workers.

Workers often suffer abuse from impatient drivers and also have the threat of speeding motorists to deal with.

A team from BBC Inside Out filmed cars racing passed workers in a 50mph (80km/h) zone travelling at between 70mph (113km/h) and 77 mph (124km/h).

Atkins, which is contracted by the Highways Agency to carry out repairs in some areas, is introducing another device to protect its workers, using stop-go boards on smaller roads.

The boards are fitted with CCTV cameras to help bring about prosecutions for those drivers who put the workforce at risk.

The Highways Agency has invested in a campaign to get drivers to slow down when approaching roadworks.

Ian Jobson, senior operations manager at the Highways Agency, said: "On average we have 4,000 people working on our roads.

"In an ideal world, we would shut the roads, that would be the safest way of doing it.

"But we cannot operate like that, particularly in this country, the traffic has to go somewhere, we can't shut the country down.

"So we have to have a compromise, but we need to make it as safe as possible."

The full report can be seen on Inside Out on Monday at 1930 GMT on BBC One and BBC One HD. Viewers elsewhere can see it on BBC iPlayer.

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