OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - They toil in the heat and cold, and they use heavy equipment. Every day when they head off to work, public works employees know that dangerous conditions await them on the job.
That was made clear Tuesday when an Ocean Springs employee was struck by a car on the side of Highway 90 while cutting grass with a tractor mower. The seven year veteran of the department was critically injured.
"Public works employees are out every day, in all types of weather. They work roadside, the sides of Highway 90. It's evident by the damage done by cars to the Crepe Myrtles on Highway 90 how hazardous it is to be in that area," Ocean Springs Public Works Director Andre' Kaufman said.
Workers like Daniel Cockerham, can attest to that.
"We see close calls all the time. You have to keep your eyes and ears open to everything. You have people that don't let you know the direction they are going. You see a lot of texting," Cockerham explained.
Bruce Richard, 52, was struck by a car Tuesday morning while operating a tractor mower off the side of Highway 90. He was critically injured. Assistant Public Works Director Johnny Groue is a cousin, and is hoping for the best.
"We've been praying for him here and hopefully everything is going to turn out good. We all know the first 48 hours is crucial and we didn't get anything negative, so we look at that as a positive," Groue said.
Kaufman also said constant safety training can lessen the danger.
"We have meetings on a regular basis. We have topic discussions, for example: bushhog operation, chain saw operation, traffic flagging."
When accidents happen involving public works employees, these men of public works band together for an even more common goal, according to Cockerham.
"You look out for your co-workers more often. You might go off down the road and you're working and you're not worrying about your co-worker because they can handle themselves. But when an incident like that happens, it makes you watch out for the people you work with all the time."
Kaufman stresses that despite all the safety training, the Tuesday morning accident was unavoidable. The tractor driven by Richard was well off the side of the road when it was struck by the out of control car.
Meanwhile, Groue is hopeful his cousin will make a full recovery, but adds it will take several months.