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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Behavioural Approach to Risk

James Bird talks about how human factors can mitigate risk.

Understanding the risk associated with highway sites is an essential part of improving the welfare of roadworkers. Using a combination of human and behavioural interventions, the toolbox will help the industry improve the safety of road and street works. Increasing communication with the public about the importance of roadwork safety will provide a necessary platform to raise the profile of highway workers and help eradicate roadworker abuse.

These were the thoughts of James Bird, Senior SHE Manager – HOF and BCC at Kier who presented as part of the Safer Highways organised Why Stamp It Out Now webinar.

The aim of the webinar was to give the broader industry, clients and local and national government an insight into the scale of the problem and the course of action the public highways sector has to take to eliminate risk.

Mr Bird’s thoughts are based around a method of working-the swiss cheese model- that considers using combination of organisational and human conditions with other pre-conditions to allow preventative and mitigative measures in place to reduce the chance of a hazard turning into an incident. Applying this method, would help road operators understand risk and therefore understand in greater detail what control measure could be put in place. This, said Mr Bird, could be applied to create a assessment for operators to understand better what measures could be put in place on a site to help significantly reduce or eradicate road worker abuse happening. The next stage, he said, would be to use this to make sites safer, protecting workers from physical and verbal abuse and supporting them when it does happen.

Stamp It Out has recently joined forces with Transport Scotland to work on campaigns that reflect the need to drive change across the whole of the UK. Speaking as part of the panel on the webinar, Jonny Moran, Operating Company Manager at Transport Scotland said that since November 2019, statistics from the trunk road network showed that 70% of workers experience people driving dangerously at them, meaning there were 5,500 instances of vehicle incursions into roadwork sites and 52% near misses from vehicle incursions. Stocking statistics to back that up found that 31% of workers had missiles thrown at them, 65% were verbally abused and 14% suffered physical abuse.

Mr Moran said he recognised that because some workers felt they could not report abuse for a variety of reasons, the statistics recorded were only part of the story. “We quickly realised that the reality of abuse was a lot greater than the figures we had and that needed to be urgently addressed,” he said. Transport Scotland will now put in place a series of objectives and measures to help eradicate abuse. This will include taking a zero-tolerance approach, supporting staff and encouraging a culture of reporting incidents as well as co-ordinating a public facing campaign and to publicise more prosecutions of people that are convicted of road worker abuse. “If we want to promote this industry as a good one to be working in, developing people and fostering a safe working environment then supporting our teams when they suffer these incidents is vital,” said Mr Moran.

Road worker abuse is a growing concern on both the local and strategic road networks in the UK as well as the wider highways and transport sectors, affecting the physical and mental health and wellbeing of workers on an alarmingly regular basis. Past incidents have been so severe, they have involved knives, shotguns and crossbows being pulled on workers as they go about their daily tasks.

The industry led Stamp It Out campaign also places the development of a new, open API app and conflict resolution training as central parts of the campaign, development of which was reported on at the webinar.

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