By Mandi Kime AGC Safety Director
Last week was National Worker Memorial Week marked by several services in Washington State. AGC Safety was in attendance at two events this year WSDOT Worker Memorial and the Department of Labor and Industries Worker Memorial.
The WSDOT event was held Wednesday at the WSDOT Headquarters in Olympia lead by Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond. This service is always touching. This year we heard from the Chief of the WSP John R. Batiste who shared his thoughts on the dangers of working near the motoring public. He said we as a society need to “remember when we are passing through work zones we are literally driving through the office of these workers.”
We as a society need to pay more attention behind the wheel and statistics on motor vehicle accidents bear that out. WSDOT and WSP urge drivers to focus on their #1 job behind the wheel put down their cell phones while driving and slowdown in work zones.
We also heard from the families of fallen WSDOT workers from years past. This brought the message home to all in attendance that every lost worker is a father mother son daughter friend or coworker. While no workers were lost at DOT this past year many motorists died or were injured in accidents in Work Zones.
A highlight of the memorial this year was hearing from a survivor of a very serious accident. Terry Linder was struck and pinned against a concrete roundabout while performing maintenance work on a Camano Island signal. While he lost a leg to the accident and suffered many serious injuries he inspired the crowd by showing his resilience and by asking everyone to help carry the message of work zone safety to the motoring public. Click here to read more about Terry.
Thursday was the L&I Worker memorial honoring every worker lost on the job in 2011. While the number of fatalities is down considerably from past years the memorial reminds all of us that even one lost worker is too many. This service demonstrated that fatalities on the job do not discriminate between age experience industry or trade. We lost workers from age 18 to 84 last year in every industry.
Construction industry lost fewer workers than in recent years but the seven workers in construction were still beloved people who left their mark on the world. The most touching and memorable part of the event each year comes after the actual ceremony when the family and loved ones of the fallen workers are encouraged to come to the courtyard and ring the memorial bell for their loved one and say a few words. As much as it is hard to see young children and other family members ring the bell and share their stories it is a somber reminder that these workers left people behind that loved and needed their presence. While we may only honor fallen workers once a year these families live with the loss every day in every aspect of their lives. Click here for more on Worker Memorial Day.
After leaving these memorial services I am more and more concerned with what improvements I can make as a safety professional citizen wife mother friend and coworker. It is refreshing to see a decline in the number of worker deaths in Washington but there is definitely more work to be done. While the workplace is gradually getting safer for our industry there is always going to be exposure. Having a good safety program is more than just writing on a page and my role is to help companies implement a program that WORKS for them.
(For help with your safety program including free consultation services contact AGCs Safety Department at 206-284-0061 or email Mandi Kime.)