More than half of water workers have suffered an increase in abuse from the public since the sewage dumping crisis flared, research suggests.

A survey of 1,300 workers by the GMB union found incidents including machete attacks, with many feeling unsafe working alone.

Half of respondents said they believed reports of sewage being dumped and increased pollution had contributed to an increase in abuse.

Gary Carter, GMB national officer, said: “No one should go to work and face abuse, but this situation is horrifying, because the negligent actions of water bosses in allowing sewage dumping to rocket has exposed their own workers to physical and verbal violence.

“GMB demands a zero-tolerance approach to the abuse of water workers and calls on water shareholders to fork out for the desperately needed infrastructure to stop record sewage spills.”