KY’s mum fights for change after workplace accident kills her daughter

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – It has been two years since Peggy Roark’s daughter, Whitney Gardner, died after falling from the back of a sanitation truck in Lexington.

“I’m still grieving,” Roark said. “I still hurt like it was yesterday.”

Since that terrible day, Roark has made it his mission to raise awareness about worker safety and advocate for change.

“It’s been tough, but I keep pushing and pushing and hoping for change,” she said.

She doesn’t want what happened to her daughter to happen to anyone else, so she looked for solutions.

For example, she wants Lexington to consider having as many automated trucks as possible. This way fewer workers overall have to ride in the back of the trucks.

“I know it’s going to cost more, but can you put a price on a human life?” she asked.

LEX18 called the city of Lexington and Environmental Quality and Public Works Commissioner Nancy Albright said they actually have 11 automated trucks on order.

She confirmed that they cost more than the traditional rear-loading truck. She said an automated side-loading truck costs $370,000 and a rear-loading truck costs $325,000.

Albright said while they were moving in the right direction, there was still room for improvement.

But she also noted that the city cannot switch to automated trucks alone. That’s because they need a lot of clearance, which some congested city streets don’t allow.

Therefore, she said rear-loading trucks are needed in these areas.

For these trucks, Roark is investigating whether requiring harnesses for workers would increase safety.

Meanwhile, Solid Waste Association of North America executive director and CEO David Biderman said training is paramount in the safety puzzle.

“Good training and high-quality safety communication are key tools in reducing the frequency of accidents and incidents,” Biderman said.

Albright said the city holds mandatory monthly safety meetings. Labor Works, the contractor Gardner worked for when she fell from a city truck, said it had “implemented new training strategies” since her death.

Even so, Roark said there’s still a lot to do. She is working with Kentucky Representative Matt Lockett to see if the legislation would help.

“Since my daughter is not here, I am her voice,” she said. “We have to make the change.”

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