After 3 Employee Deaths in Southern California, Caltrans Halts Routine Work

Caltrans contractorsA fatal collision involving a Caltrans employee in San Diego this morning marks the third death to strike the agency in the past 48 days. The incident, which also has resulted in the most deaths ever in such a short period of time, prompted officials to call a statewide safety stand down today in order to emphasize safety procedures.

"Every day, highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work," said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "These three tragic incidents are sobering reminders that we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe."

Highway workers' risk of death is seven times greater than the average worker, according to Caltrans. 178 employees have died on the job since the 1920s.

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52-year-old maintenance worker Richard Gonzalez died this morning after being struck by a vehicle on a Interstate 15 connector ramp to State Route 94 in San Diego. At the time of the collision he was picking up debris.

Earlier this month, Jaime Obeso was killed while working on Interstate 8 in Imperial County. Stephen Palmer, Sr., was killed when he was struck by a trolley in National City outside San Diego in May.

All three deaths occurred in Caltrans District 11.

The statewide stand down means routine and regularly-scheduled highway maintenance work is being temporarily suspended as the agency revisits all aspects of field safety. Public safety messages will be posted to more than 700 digital highway messages signs around the state.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user sonofabike. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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