Wyoming’s workplace fatalities on the decline

An initial review shows that there were 23 workplace fatalities in Wyoming in 2012, according to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s office. That’s a decrease from 48 in 2007. For much of the 2000s, Wyoming’s workplace fatality rate ranked either worst or second-worst in the nation.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in northwest Wyoming. (Dewey Vanderhoff/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in northwest Wyoming. (Dewey Vanderhoff/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Gov. Mead issued a press release on Wednesday (January 23) announcing that his administration recently brought together representatives from the transportation industry to discuss forming a safety coalition and work on ways to make transportation in Wyoming safer. The concept would be similar to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance (WOGISA) and the Wyoming Refinery Safety Alliance.

Mead noted that in 2012 more than half of the fatalities in Wyoming were in the transportation industry, and over the last decade 60 percent of workplace deaths occurred in the transportation industry.

“The transportation industry presents workplace safety challenges for employers and employees alike. I believe the transportation industry can do better,” Mead said in a prepared statement. “This coalition can focus initially on the root causes of transportation fatalities and begin to develop practices to reduce deaths.”

“It is important to identify and address the safety challenges of driving in Wyoming and communicate those challenges to the public, especially drivers who are not familiar with Wyoming’s roads, Wyoming’s weather and long distances travelled,” Sheila Foertsch, managing director of the Wyoming Trucking Association, said in a prepared statement.

Wyoming and some of its main industries have taken on several voluntary initiatives in recent years to try to reduce workplace fatalities and injuries. Wyoming hired a state occupational epidemiologist to analyze workplace fatalities and injuries. Seven new safety consultants were hired and trained by the Department of Workforce Services. The Legislature also appropriated funds for small companies to purchase safety equipment such as flame retardant clothing. The oil and gas industry formed WOGISA and the refineries in the state formed a similar coalition, the Refinery Safety Alliance.

For more on workplace safety issues in Wyoming, check out these recent WyoFile stories and columns:

Wyoming refiners consider safety alliance

— Wyo OSHA witnessed fires and fire hazards prior to workers being burned

— Fuel Factories; Communities at risk

— Wyoming takes courtesy approach to curbing workplace deaths

— Widow of fallen Wyoming worker speaks

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