UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) The orange vests and hard hats are a somber reminder that workers with the state’s Department of Transportation face deadly risks while on the job.
Jay Ofsanik said the memorial that honors the 81 employees killed on the job since 1970 while working in Pennsylvania construction zones is designed to not only remember but reinforce the importance of driving safely in work zones.
“I don’t think the public realizes just how many workers have died on the job,” Ofsanik said as he looked at the display in Uniontown.
“We not only want motorists to see this as a tribute, but also see this as a reminder to slow down in construction zones,” he said. “A person wearing a vest has no protection against 3,000 pounds of metal.”
Workers in PennDOT’s District 3 office in Montoursville came up with the idea for the mobile memorial.
There are 81 individual units in the memorial, each featuring a white “T” with a hard hat, orange vest and the name and date of the PennDOT worker killed while on the job.
This year, two workers have died. Orange hard hats represent road workers; white hard hats symbolize supervisors who have died.
Ofsanik said motorists should realize many other workers have died while working on Pennsylvania’s roadways.
“PennDOT workers aren’t the only ones affected,” Ofsanik said. “There also have been employees of our subcontractors, utility workers, police officers, firefighters and members of EMS squads.
“In fact, more motorists have lost their lives in construction zones than have construction workers,” Ofsanik said.
He said that employees manning signal flags are particularly vulnerable to accidents but that no one working near moving vehicles is completely safe.
“The simple act of a police officer issuing a traffic ticket can result in the loss of a life,” he said.