MARSHFIELD, Maine — Kenneth P. Schoppee was a wonderful parent and grandfather, his daughter Barbara Richardson said Tuesday.
He loved motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidsons. He was a proud man who ran his own dairy farm for decades. He had two children, seven grandchildren and a devoted wife.
But on Aug. 29, 2007, Schoppee was killed when a service truck owned by Guptill’s Logging Supplies backed over him at a remote logging operation in Centerville Township.
Richardson called attention to her father’s death to mark the 21st annual Workers Memorial Day, which falls on April 28 each year to honor workers who died on the job. The date recalls the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act’s taking effect on April 28, 1971.
Schoppee, 64, was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, yet the man backing up the truck did not see him. The truck had no backup alarm and its back window view was obscured by machinery. Schoppee was crushed, and Guptill’s was fined $2,100 by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“I’m not talking about this for selfish reasons,” Richardson said Tuesday. “This isn’t about who was right or who was wrong. This is about awareness.”
Many who gather today for Workers Memorial Day will likely have the recent mine tragedy in West Virginia and the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on their minds. The disasters illustrate how important safety is at potentially dangerous work sites.
In rural Washington County — with many people earning their livings by the sea or the forest — workplace dangers are commonplace.
“People, especially men, begin to assume that danger is just part of the job,” Richardson said.
The number of fatal workplace injuries rose between 2005 and 2008 (the last year data were available), according to statistics from the Maine Department of Labor. In 2005, there were 15 deaths; 20 in 2006; 21 in 2007; and 24 in 2008. Of those 80 deaths, 70 were men and 10 were women.
“My dad was very safety-conscious,” Richardson said. “He had worked around machinery all his life.”
But on a work site, everyone must do his part for safety, Richardson said.
“This happened to us, but it didn’t have to happen,” she said. “It just takes a second’s thought. This is what the Workers Memorial Day is all about — awareness.”
Richardson said that if her dad’s death was to stand for anything, it was to have other workers stop and think about safety on their job sites.
“I have to believe that this is the reason that this all happened, so others could be more aware of safety and safety issues,” she said.