Road workers, also known as highway operatives, help build new roads and maintain existing ones. They are involved in re-surfacing, repairing potholes and cracks, widening roads or digging access trenches for laying cables and pipes used to supply gas, water or telecommunications. They also maintain roadside verges and central reservations.
Some of this work is done by hand with picks and shovels, but heavy jobs involve a range of specialised machinery such as pneumatic drills, 360-degree excavators and rollers. Road workers also mix and spread materials such as aggregate, tarmac and concrete, build or repair pavements, lay kerbs, lay down road markings, and erect fences, barriers, road signs, traffic lights and street lamps.
In winter, they may also be involved in road gritting and snow clearance.
Safety plays a major role during a job and workers are responsible for setting up warning signs and cones, as well as the management of traffic and pedestrians close to the site.
Road workers work a basic 37-hour week, often with early starts. However, overtime during evenings, nights and weekends is common, in order to minimise disruption to traffic.
Road workers work outside in all weathers and the work is noisy, dirty and physically demanding. Protective clothing such as ear defenders, safety hats and boots are worn.
The work involves travelling both locally and further afield, and can mean short or long periods away from home. A driving licence will be useful.
To be a road worker you should:
Road workers work for private civil engineering companies or for public bodies such as local councils. Work is available across the UK and abroad. Many road workers become self-employed, working on a contract basis. It may be possible to progress to supervisory positions such as 'ganger' or foreman, or to train for work on specialised machinery.
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