State Occupational Epidemiologist Releases Annual Report on Workplace Fatalities

CHEYENNE - The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) released an updated Work-Related Fatal Injuries report today. The report, which provides analysis over years 2012-2016 and is the second multi-year report, reveals a complete view of recent fatality patterns in the state by industry and cause. Wyoming continues to have one of the highest occupational fatality rates in the country.

In 2016, the State Occupational Epidemiologist identified 27 workplace fatalities. This is a reduction from the 30 fatalities identified by the state in 2015. Since 2012, 30 percent of the 143 deaths fell under the jurisdiction of Wyoming OSHA for in-depth investigation and 65 percent were Wyoming residents. Nearly half of all fatalities during this time were due to motor vehicle incidents. This includes six ATV/UTV crashes.

"Safety is an expectation of every job - any single workplace fatality is one too many. We continue to make progress with the help of industry safety alliances," said Governor Mead. "I thank the Department of Workforce Services for their good work on this report."

During the period 2012-2016, the Transportation and Warehousing industry accounted for the largest proportion of occupational fatalities in Wyoming (25 percent), followed by the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting industry (18 percent), and a tailored Oil & Gas Extraction and Production industry category (17 percent). In 2016, no fatalities were identified in the industries of Manufacturing and Mining (excluding oil & gas). During the period 2012-2016, Natrona County had the highest number of occupational fatalities (22), followed by Laramie (15), Campbell (14), Carbon (12), and Sweetwater (12) Counties.

"Motor vehicle incidents are the leading cause of occupational fatality in Wyoming and across the country," State Epidemiologist Meredith Towle said, "What we are starting to learn is that many of these deaths in Wyoming are attributed to incidents that occurred road-side or on a job site. There is real risk while working around moving vehicles, and workers using utility vehicles should be properly trained and equipped to use those machines. We have also learned that nearly 40 percent of the workers killed in a roadway crash were not properly using a seat belt. Employers have the opportunity to help elevate their employees' compliance with safety restraints on the job."

Due to additional data collection and slight changes in case classifications, findings in this report replace findings in last year's Work-Related Fatal Injuries report. The report includes federal and state fatality data, but does not address non-fatal occupation injury data. Developing and expanding non-fatal occupational injury reporting continues to be a strategic goal of the State Occupational Epidemiology program.

Combining multiple years of worker fatality data helps policymakers identify patterns in the fatal-injury causes. The data in this report show differences in fatal injury cause by industry, as well as differences in the demographics of affected workers and follow-up investigation experience by industry. An example can be seen in the Agriculture industry. Only a small portion of deaths are investigated by a comprehensive framework set forth by a state agency. The implication is that ag-related deaths are not fully or systematically evaluated state-wide, thus a full picture of burden and causality isn't available to help inform prevention efforts in that sector.

Two DWS programs monitor workplace-related deaths: the State Occupational Epidemiologist's count of workplace deaths, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program. The CFOI remains the national gold-standard for tracking occupational fatalities and providing state-to-state and state-to-national comparisons. Differences in program confidentiality rules, along with access to federal investigatory information, means that the two strategies will likely produce different counts of workplace deaths. The programs collect similar information, but have two different goals: the State-run program allows for a more detailed look at workplace deaths; while the CFOI program allows for the collection of standardized data across states. The complete state report and other resources are available here.

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