BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development on Wednesday honored 33 employees who died on the job since 1963.
Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry unveiled a permanent memorial during a ceremony at DOTD headquarters attended by officials, employees and employees’ family members.
Gov. Blanco said, “We can all be proud of the 33 employees honored here today. They gave their lives in the service of others.”
Bradberry said, “Today we ensure that their names live on in Louisiana history – individuals who gave their lives to help make life better for all of us.”
During the ceremony, Gov. Blanco praised Bradberry and DOTD for “making safety as much a part of their mission as managing our resources and improving our transportation infrastructure.”
The governor noted the department’s adoption of federal standards for high-visibility worker apparel and the ongoing efforts of the Work Zone Safety Task Force, which works with the Federal Highway Administration on safety matters.
Other attendees at the ceremony included relatives of eight of the employees; members of the governor’s Cabinet; and the Rev. Eric Burges, who gave the invocation.
The 7-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide black granite slab has been permanently installed in the headquarters lobby. Constructed by Creative Graphics Inc. of St. Rose, three-quarter-inch black granite wraps around a welded aluminum frame. Features include a back-lit glass inlay of the Louisiana state seal within the state’s boot shape. Beneath are magnetized granite tiles on which employees’ names are engraved.
For the past five years, the department has erected temporary cone memorials during Work Zone Awareness Week in the spring to remember those who died in work zones – not only construction employees, but motorists as well. This activity will continue, but work began two years ago on the idea to develop a permanent memorial for DOTD employees, according to Fred Rasmussen, DOTD loss prevention director.
Rasmussen said the department developed the list based on available information, but he hopes that once the public knows of the memorial, family members of those employees whose names are not included so far will call his office at (225) 237-1381.
The new memorial holds one name each from the years of 1963 and 1979, respectively. The 1980s includes 17 names; the 1990s, 11 names (including one female); and 2000 to the present, three names. While federal statistics indicate nine people died in Louisiana work zones in 2003, no DOTD employees have been killed on the job for the past three years, Rasmussen said.
Bradberry noted a decline by more than a third (35.2 percent) in DOTD work-related deaths between 1980 and 1990. And halfway through the current decade, work-related deaths are down 73 percent, from 11 to 3, compared with the 1990s.
Jim Bowen, a spokesman for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), said Louisiana DOTD joins three other states that have permanent memorials – Minnesota, Virginia and Michigan.