The third California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) worker in 48 days died on the job after being struck by a vehicle, according to a June 20 press statement from the agency. These fatalities are the most ever in such a short period of time, according to Caltrans.
Richard Gonzalez, a 52-year-old Caltrans maintenance worker, died shortly before 9 a.m. on June 20 after being struck by a vehicle while he was picking up litter along the northbound Interstate 15 connector ramp to eastbound State Route 94 in San Diego.
On May 4, Stephen Palmer Sr. was struck by a trolley and killed in National City near San Diego. On June 7, Jaime Obeso was killed by an errant vehicle while working on Interstate 8 in Imperial County.
Caltrans has called a statewide safety stand down to emphasize safety procedures. All routine or regularly-scheduled highway maintenance activities are being temporarily halted to revisit and reinforce all aspects of field safety and to ask the public for help.
Caltrans will post notices on its statewide network of more than 700 electronic highway message signs reminding motorists to watch out for Caltrans employees. Flags will be at half staff on Caltrans buildings across the state in remembrance of Caltrans workers who have needlessly lost their lives this year.
“Every day, highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty in a written press statement. “These three tragic incidents are sobering reminders that we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe. Motorists must slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over a lane when passing work crews.”
Highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The risk of death is seven times greater for highway workers than for the average worker. Since the 1920s, 178 Caltrans employees have died while on the job.