Eight days after two of its employees were killed by a rockslide while working to protect the traveling public, Caltrans honored its 180 employees who have lost their lives on the job at its 23rd Annual Workers Memorial today at the State Capitol.
After nearly two years without a Caltrans fatality, Shawn Baker, 50, of Weed, and Joseph “Robert” Jones, 40, of Montague, died during a rock scaling operation to stabilize a hillside on State Route 96, west of Yreka. A third Caltrans worker, Kevin Skillen, 50, sustained moderate injuries and is recovering.
“The workers memorial is a reminder that safety is a year-round priority. What we do is important to California, but nothing is more important than the safety of our workers and the public,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
Californians can help keep highways safe by slowing down in work zones and complying with the Move Over law, which took effect in 2007 and was amended in 2009 to add Caltrans vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights to the list of vehicles for which motorists must move over if safe to do so, or slow down.
Caltrans recently installed new “Move Over” signs statewide to help save lives and increase safety for motorists, highway workers, California Highway Patrol officers, and other law enforcement. The signs display the messages, “Move Over or Slow for Stopped Emergency and Maintenance Vehicles” and “Move Over or Slow When Amber Lights Flashing.”
California has made significant strides in work zone safety since 1999 when Caltrans launched its Slow for the Cone Zone safety campaign. Since the inception of Slow for the Cone Zone, California’s work zone fatality rate has declined 63 percent compared to a drop of 34 percent nationally.
The primary reasons for cone zone-related crashes include alcohol, speeding and distracted driving. Most cone zone crashes can be avoided if drivers slow down, pay attention, and don’t drive while impaired.
Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop two funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job. The Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces, and the children of fallen workers may now apply for a Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship. If you’d like to make a donation, send your check to the California Transportation Foundation, 581 La Sierra Drive, Sacramento, CA 95864. Please designate which fund your donation should go to. Checks should be made out to the California Transportation Foundation, which will match donations dollar for dollar up to $7,500.