Caltrans commemorated the passing of three more of its employees today during its 27th Annual Workers Memorial at the State Capitol. This brings the total to 187 Caltrans employees who lost their lives on the job since 1921.
Dignitaries, Caltrans employees, and family and friends paid special tribute to Jorge Lopez, Randy Whisenhunt and Annette Brooks, who all lost their lives since last year’s memorial. Lopez was an electrician who was struck and killed at the age of 57, on September 1, 2016, by an errant big rig that crossed onto the shoulder of State Route 14 near Palmdale. Whisenhunt was an electrician from the Escondido Yard, who passed away on October 9, 2016, at the age of 58, as a result of injuries suffered on the job. Lopez and Whisenhunt are each survived by a wife and three children. Brooks, was a Structural Steel Painter Supervisor, and was shot and killed at the age of 61, at a Caltrans facility in Rio Dell on April 24.
“We honor and recognize the tremendous loss that their loved ones and friends have suffered,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “The greatest honor we can give is to keep their memories alive to help prevent future tragedies.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In 2013, there were 5,887 work zone collisions on California roadways resulting in 51 fatalities and 2,757 injuries, compared to 6,525 work zone collisions resulting in 43 fatalities and 3,243 injuries in 2014. Nationally drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of the people who are killed in highway work zones. These numbers don’t include the close calls highway workers experience every day.
“Every day, thousands of highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work and serving the public,” added Dougherty. “Work zones can change from minute to minute, and being alert can be the difference between life and death for both workers and motorists.”
Motorists can dramatically improve safety in work zones by slowing down and reducing distractions like texting and talking on the phone, and complying with the Move Over law, which requires motorists to move over if it is safe to do so, or slow down when approaching vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights.
Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job. The Fallen Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces, and the children of fallen workers may apply for a Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship. For more information or to make donations, visit www.transportationfoundation.org.