By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – Missouri Senator Doug Beck (Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562) has introduced legislation to protect Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) crews or other workers from being killed or injured on the job as a result of employer negligence.
Beck’s legislation, SB 1188, was introduced Feb 24, in response to a fatal accident that occurred last November.
MoDOT crews were re-striping a lane on Telegraph Road near the entrance ramp to I-255 on Nov. 18, the week before Thanksgiving, when a driver in a passenger car drove through the traffic cones that were in place and struck three workers.
Two of the workers, Kaitlyn Anderson and her unborn son, and James Brooks, died at the scene. A third worker was seriously injured.
Brooks, a senior maintenance worker, was 58 and had worked for the department for almost nine years. Anderson, an intermediate maintenance worker, was 25 and had worked for the department for two years. She was 22 weeks pregnant at the time of the crash and had recently asked to be assigned to a safer job because she had been positioned in a bumper truck – the vehicle normally placed between MoDOT crews and approaching traffic – and had been hit on three separate occasions.
There was no bumper truck in place on the day of the accident that killed her. Instead, there were only traffic cones.
After striking the three workers, the car continued on and struck the service truck that was parked behind them with its flashing lights on. The impact moved the truck only three feet. Had that truck, or a bumper truck, been placed between the workers and oncoming traffic, their deaths might have been avoided.
OUTSIDE OF SAFETY STANDARD
“Instead of having a truck behind them, they had cones,” Beck said in introducing the bill. “It was completely outside of the safety of what should have happened in this case.
“It is the call of the lead, or supervisor, to ask for additional trucks or to determine the position of the crew’s truck. Simply positioning the truck between them and traffic could have saved three lives and prevented a fourth from being severely injured. This is a free and easy strategy to protect people.”
“If these workers had been positioned in the front of the truck (instead of at the rear), none of this would have happened,” Beck said. “This is a flagrant disregard for human life and this is what this legislation will try to take care of. It will make sure that we uphold and have simple safety standards. This is not just about moving over and avoiding them. This is about only having plastic cones in between cars and these workers. This is something that could have been simply avoided and there could have been no casualties in this thing.”
PROVIDE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY
Beck’s SB 1188 seeks to provide more accountability in future accidents and prevent them to the extent possible by increasing the potential penalties and financial liability of employers who fail to follow established safety protocols. The bill would:
- Increase by at least 25 percent the compensation and death benefit for workers injured or killed on the job as a result of the failure of their employer to comply with any safety standard issued by the employer or any regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the work.
- Increase from $5,000 to $15,000 the maximum compensation owed for the employee’s funeral expenses.
- Allow punitive damages to be awarded to workers or their families from a public entity, such as MoDOT, if they can show that the employer violated a safety standard previously issued by the employer or a regulatory agency.
The bill is not yet scheduled for a committee hearing or on the Senate calendar.