By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
“No one goes to work and expects to get killed, nor do they go to work and expect to see someone killed,” said Allan McDougall, a former coal miner who works full time to console and support such grieving families.
Yet that’s exactly what happened to two workers in Mercer County in the last year, both of whom were killed in trucking accidents and who were honored Monday in a ceremony in the rotunda of the Mercer County Courthouse.
Joseph Nogee was killed on the job at Lowe’s in Hermitage and Richard Beck died while at work for Estes Trucking in Shenango Township.
Sponsored by the Mercer County Central Labor Council, members of United Steelworkers, the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the carpenters and teamsters unions read the names of 42 workers killed statewide in the last year.
Accidents involving truck driving and tree trimming, chemical burns and falls claimed their lives, leaving families to deal with the aftermath and figure out how to move forward, McDougall said.
“In our union, across the county, there is a fatality every eight days and three critical injuries interspersed in there, too. Where do you go? There are some professional services for those in the military, and firefighters and police. But for blue collar and white collar workers, there is very little support,” McDougall said.
He travels the country, reaching out to victims’ families and colleagues, from the day of the accident through the next year, he said.
“Sometimes, the ‘family’ is the people we work with, day in and day out, year after year. You see them come in every day carrying a lunch bag and suddenly you see them leave in a body bag,” McDougall said.
As an international coordinator for the United Steelworkers emergency response team, McDougall said unions across the nation do much to support their colleagues. “A man in Indiana went to work one day and came home a paraplegic. We didn’t just go out and build a ramp. The carpenters union spent three months and remodeled his entire house to make things accessible for him.”
“In the beginning, everyone is there. Family, friends, neighbors and the company. But what about four months down the road when the benefits are cut off and the friends are busy? We’re still here, checking to see what we can do,” he said.
Locally, Anna Rickert, secretary for the labor council, organized what she hopes will become an annual event, remembering those lives lost. “We want people to be aware of how many people are killed on the job. And we’d like to stress to our politicians to keep OSHA laws intact. Without them, we’d be a third world country.”
Andy Harkulich, labor council president, stressed that the ceremony “isn’t a union thing. It’s a human thing.”
About 50 people attended Monday’s event, including county row officers, judges, local political candidates and various union groups.