Wyoming Groups Call for Stricter Workplace Safety Rules

“Eight years of being worse or second-worst in death-on-the-job is proof that there’s a problem in Wyoming that needs to be remedied,” said Wyoming AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Kim Floyd.

Two Wyoming safety groups are calling for the state to implement stronger workplace safety laws.

The Wyoming AFL-CIO, the Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER), and the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association recently issued a press release calling for increased OSHA inspections and higher fines for employers who discourage reporting of injuries.

“Wyoming must make sweeping legislative, agency, policy, and cultural changes to ensure the safety of its workers,” the release said.

Timothy Ryan, former epidemiologist for the state of Wyoming, recently documented Wyoming’s workplace safety record in a report to Gov. Matt Mead. Ryan reported that Wyoming had the nation’s highest or second highest workplace fatality rate for eight out of nine years between 2001 and 2009. In 2010, there were 34 workplace fatalities, a 78 percent increase from 2009.

“Eight years of being worse or second-worst in death-on-the-job is proof that there’s a problem in Wyoming that needs to be remedied,” said Wyoming AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Kim Floyd.

“That Wyoming lacks a strong culture of safety should be obvious to anybody familiar with our state's abhorrent workplace safety record,” said Mark Aronowitz, lead attorney for SAFER. “What we urgently need is a renewed commitment to safety with on-the-ground changes, from the highest levels of our state government down to individual work sites.”

The press release called for Wyoming to:

  • Empower OSHA, enabling it to hire more inspectors to not only increase courtesy inspections, but to conduct both scheduled and surprise inspections and subsequently fine and penalize companies violating safety laws. Mandatory inspections should be required following any accident requiring hospitalization;
  • Direct OSHA to determine why Wyoming mines, where the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulates safety, have significantly better safety records than other hazardous industries.
  • Increase penalties and fines for employers and employees who discourage reporting of injuries to avoid increases in worker’s compensation premiums, to protect safety bonuses, or for any other reason;
  • Make company injury records public. General contractors, worksite owners, and workers, especially those working in hazardous industries, need to know whether their sub-contractors, independent contractors, and employers have instilled or rejected a culture of safety.

The Casper Star-Tribune on Jan. 7 reported that Gov. Mead’s director of communications, Renny MacKay, issued a statement by email in response to the press release.

Mead said there is a need for systemic changes. “One of those changes is to identify trends, failures, and necessary improvements in a timely manner. This can only be done with better access to date,” MacKay stated in the email. “There is a new focus on safety and Governor Mead is committed to helping Wyoming workers return home unharmed every evening.”

Mead is moving the state epidemiologist position to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, which should break down barriers to data access and analysis, reported Casper Star-Tribune staff writer Kelsey Dayton.

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