Employees First

From the desk of Transporter Editor Reed Hollinshead:

Those who came before paved the path to where we are today. I’ve never heard a more fitting phrase for workers at a highway department.

Since late November, I’ve been combing through old newsletters and asking some of ITD’s long-time employees about our fallen workers – those who died on the job or in the line of duty with ITD.

There have been stories where medical conditions come up, and we likely could not have done a thing. I read about John Van Dusen, a 20-year-old who suffered a heart attack while building the highway between McCammon and Pocatello. For someone that young to go in that manner, it doesn’t even seem fair.

There are stories of tragic ends. I read about Les Bartholomew, run down by an impaired driver as he set out additional highway cones during spring break up.

There were freak accidents like the case of Dennis Taylor, killed when a high-pressure hose nearly took his head off on the side of Interstate 84.

Some were likely preventable. Pictures of Matt Kime's truck appear to show that he likely would have been able to walk away from the crash had he worn a seatbelt. Similarly, Byran Bidegain reportedly reached into the side of a rotary snowplow still under power, and lost his life.

When I retire, having been involved with this project will be a highlight.  It’s just sad when some of these tragedies could have been be prevented simply by clicking a seatbelt or speaking up when you see someone really struggling.

There’s no guarantee that something still may not happened, but the percentages certainly shift in your favor. It may not be your nature to get involved, but if you stay detached, you relinquish the opportunity for positive influence.

As I was doing research for the Fallen Worker Memorial, I ran across this, from 1962. It was written by employees, for employees. The memorial is just that – by employees, for employees:

It’s a big job on this old earth, to get on your own and prove your worth,
But it’s tougher still to have a mlshap, and face the world with that handicap.
No matter how smart you think you are, you cannot depend on your lucky star.
To keep your limbs and eyes intact, and keep your skull from being cracked.
It takes constant care and a mind that’s alert, to stay on the job and avoid being hurt.

Published 02-08-19