“Safety is best taught by example,” said Youssef Youssefzadeh, Caltrans District 7 Construction Safety Coordinator. “My very first Caltrans supervisor led by example and I have always tried to carry out his method of teaching. I hope to pass that on to others.”
It’s not often that Inside Seven features a District 7 employee who is heading toward retirement within days. But Youssefzadeh has been the voice of enforcing and practicing Caltrans’ safety message for years. As another year comes to a close, it’s important to be reminded of on-the-job safety as he has demonstrated to us.
As Youssefzadeh retired on December 30 after 29 years with Caltrans, he hoped that employees have learned and - most importantly - that we practice good safety habits.
“I owe my career to the training I’ve received,” he said. “In the ‘80s, Caltrans valued training as shown by its ‘training rotation’ method of cross-training employees between divisions,” he said.
Youssefzadeh, known to his co-workers as Youssef Youssef (or ‘JoJo’ to his friends and family), will be remembered as a dedicated colleague, with conviction and a commitment to safety. It’s a message he spreads eloquently, yet forcefully, to employees working in the field, in the office, and to all contractors big and small.
Anyone attending a Caltrans pre-construction meeting with its contractors would have heard Youssefzadeh speak about safety. At those meetings, Caltrans states its expectations to the awarded contractor regarding the rules and regulations of labor compliance, quality control, material testing, equal employment, media and public affairs, and partnering commitments.
To witness Youssefzadeh speak to the group is to see a person who is passionate and serious about his work, while laying down the law about following safety codes to the letter and using the correct equipment and gear.
“I was so shy in high school. I could barely speak in science lab about the snake in the jar,” he said. “Now, public speaking comes easy because I just say what I believe in. To do this job successfully, one must truly believe that safety is Caltrans’ number one priority.”
To believe otherwise, he says, could be the difference between going home at the end of your shift … or not. He has been called out in the middle of the night following work-related incidents and, sadly, following fatalities.
“It’s hard to get that out of your mind. It lives with you,” he said. “There is a balance in life and it is important to find a way to keep in balance.”
For Youssefzadeh, balance comes from fishing and camping along Oregon’s Klamath River. No deep-sea fishing for him; he likes to be grounded. To balance outdoor sports, he also has an artistic outlet of designing and creating jewelry made of turquoise and gemstones.
He loves turquoise stones which are believed to release energies for protection, strength, spiritual connection, wisdom and wealth.
“Please, everyone, be careful out there. Pay attention to the pixels of life,” he said. “If you see a ladder in the road… don’t you foresee a hazard? Please do the right thing and call the TMC when you see safety issues. Keep their number with you and saved in your phone. The TMC is the umbilical cord of Caltrans; use its resources.”
“We see, read and hear that safety is Caltrans’ top priority on our mission statement. But, we should believe it and live it every day,” said Youssefzadeh. “This is my hope for all of you as I leave this job. I hope I’ve gotten this message across.”
Perhaps we all need is to wear a little more turquoise and remember Youssef Youssefzadeh when we’re working out on the road and in the field. From all of us as Caltrans District 7, we wish Youssef a happy, healthy and safe new year and many retirement years.