Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Tracy Armstead, landscape worker, Special Crews, receives a District 7 Certificate of Acknowledgement for Bravery and Heroism. Pictured from left to right:  Junius Pierson, Chief, Office of Safety and Health; Doug Failing, District 7 Director; Armstead; Rick Harrison, Safety Specialist, Office of Safety and Health.

Governor’s Safety Awards are on Their Way to LA
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 08/2009

District 7 Acknowledges Bravery and Heroism in the Line of Duty. Quick-thinking Maintenance Staff Help Strangers in Need.

Three Caltrans maintenance workers received a District 7 Certificate of Acknowledgement for Bravery and Heroism for their actions to help others in need, their dedication to safety awareness and training and personal commitment to respond.

Doug Failing, District 7 Director, invited structural steel painter Tracy Armstead, and Special Crew landscape worker Dean Hunter and his supervisor, Gustavo “Gus” Nunez, to a staff meeting in July to present certificates to them and to publicly recognize their bravery and heroism while on the job. The men have also been chosen, among other State of California employees, to receive the prestigious 2009 Governor’s Safety Award.

“These men represent the Department proudly,” said Failing. “On behalf of the entire District 7 family, please accept our appreciation for your brave and selfless actions to assist citizens in times of need and distress. Your actions make us all very proud to know you and work beside you.”

Armstead, Nunez and Hunter, (who has transferred to Caltrans District 12), are the kind of people who humbly say that they were just doing their job – the kind of person everyone wants nearby in times of crisis. Their acts of bravery and heroism did not go unnoticed. Their supervisors, Jim Fowler, west region manager, Maintenance; and Dan Sanchez, (retired), Special Crews region, notified Rick Harrison, safety specialist, District Office of Health and Safety, to document their actions during the two September 2008 incidents that took place in Long Beach and Moorpark. The Inside Seven newsletter published two articles: “Bravery on the Bridges,” and “Quick Thinking in the Field Saves a Life,” which detail the events. (Archived Oct. and Nov. 2008 editions available through the District 7 Intranet and

Harrison described the heroic acts by Armstead, Hunter and Nunez to a District 7 executive staff on July 13, spoke of why the men were nominated to receive the Governor’s Safety Award and announced that they were chosen among a select group of statewide employees.

On September 8, 2008, Armstead was preparing to paint a 25-foot high bridge deck over the Dominguez Channel in Long Beach. He was alerted by co-workers of a man who ran down the embankment and jumped into the channel. While the crew called 9-1-1, Armstead jumped into the channel to save the man while swimming against a heavy downstream current. The victim, sadly, did not survive the ordeal. Armstead gave credit to his co-workers for playing a part in the attempt to save the life of a citizen.

Two days later, on September 10, 2008, Hunter and Nunez were overseeing a crew of Special Program workers in a remote area of Caltrans right-of-way off the freeway system in Moorpark. (Special Program workers are those referred from the court system to work off traffic tickets or other infractions by augmenting Caltrans’ litter and weed removal program). Following a break, one worker casually walked away from the group, and told Hunter that he was having trouble breathing, fearing a heart attack. Hunter knew that the emergency medical team would have difficulty finding their exact location and also knew that the ambulance facility was located next door to the Caltrans Moorpark Maintenance yard. He knew a short-cut that was half the distance in half the time and called the ambulance facility to alert them that a person in distress was on the way. Paramedics took over his care, and while en route to a hospital, the worker experienced a full cardiac arrest and fell into a coma for five days. The man has since recovered and was able to personally thank his rescuers, Nunez and Hunter, who visited daily while in the hospital.

In other related health and safety news, Junius Pierson, chief of the District’s Office of Safety and Health, was recognized for a significant decrease in District 7’s number of on-the-job injuries and incident rates. District 7 showed the largest reduction in the state - 36.5 percent - in 2008 with 116 on-the-job injuries and incidents amongst it nearly 2,650 employees.

In 2004, the Department set a goal of reducing job injuries by 10 percent by the end of fiscal year 2008; the goal was exceeded by 1.76 percent. Overall in 2008, there was a 7.66 percent decrease in the number of on-the-job injuries as compared to 2007. Other Caltrans districts with a decrease in injury rates are: Headquarters with a 31.4 percent decrease (30 on-the-job injuries/3,300 employees) and District 1 (Eureka) with a 17.69 percent decrease (13 on-the-job injuries/600 employees).

Pierson says that this achievement can be attributed to a number of factors including increased field visits and reviews by the District’s Health and Safety specialists and a constant emphasis on safety training and work practices.

“Achieving this goal was a team effort between our health and safety officers and field staff, along with a conscientious commitment to apply safety standards and measures at the right moment while on the job,” says Pierson. 

Gustavo Gus Nunez,supervisor, Special Crews Landscape Jim Fowler, west region manager, Maintenance, accepts the Certificates of Appreciation on behalf of Gus Nunez and Dean Hunter. Junius Pierson, Chief, Office of Safety and Health, receives an award for District 7’s significant decrease in the number of on-the-job injuries and incident rates.  Pictured from left to right: Doug Failing, District 7 Director; Pierson; Rick Harrison, Safety Specialist, Office of Safety and Health; Duncan McIntosh, District Deputy Director, Administration