Mother pushing for workplace safety years after daughter’s death

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NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — A mother is pushing for change four years after her daughter died in a work accident. She said she wants to be her daughter’s voice.

Peggy Roark shows off her daughter, Whitney Gardner, whenever she can. It’s been four long years since she lost her.

“The saddest thing, a lot of these accidents can be prevented,” Roark said, wearing a shirt with her daughter’s face on it.

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day – a day to remember people who lost their lives on the job. A billboard in Nicholasville honors Gardner.

On March 23, 2020, she was working as a temporary employee, riding on the back of a Lexington garbage truck. According to an OSHA report, the other workers heard her hard hat hit the ground while they were stopped and found her unconscious. For hours, Roark said she called her daughter’s phone, trying to figure out why she hadn’t come home from work. Finally, someone picked up.

“He said, ‘I’m a nurse at UK, and I’m on the sixth floor neurology and your daughter’s had a very serious accident,'” Roark said.

Gardner died a few days later. For the last four years, Roark has tried to find ways to make sure something like that never happens again.

“To have better safety, not to ride on the back of trucks, to have better helmets,” Roark said.

A union representative said the city now has several new, automated trucks, but he’d like to see more safety training for temporary workers and some kind of harness for workers on the backs of trucks.

As the nation remembers workers lost on the job, Roark vows to keep pushing for safety.

“I feel happy and I know she’s happy and then I feel sad. Everybody says I’m one of the strongest mothers, but I have to keep going because I’m her voice,” Roark said.

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