CHEYENNE – Today, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) State Occupational Epidemiologist Dr. C. Mack Sewell released a report (found below) outlining workplace fatalities and their circumstances by industry for 2012. Also provided in the report are trends identified through a review of workers’ compensation claims for hospitalization, amputations, burn injuries requiring hospitalization, high medical cost claims and long-term disability.
“The unique combination of Wyoming’s prevalent industries, its climate and geography create challenges for safe working environments,” said Dr. Mack Sewell. “It is my hope that this report will provide insight into areas where improvement needs to be made.”
“We know that changing the culture of safety will not happen overnight,” said Director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Joan Evans. “The surveillance system developed by Dr. Sewell is the first of its kind in Wyoming and I believe it is a step in the right direction for making important changes in workplace safety in our state.”
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). Differences in each programs’ confidentiality rules, along with access to federal investigatory information means that the two strategies can be expected to produce different counts of workplace deaths. The programs have two different goals: the State-run program allows for a more detailed look at workplace deaths at the industry-level based primarily on documents such as death records, police crash reports and coroner’s reports while the CFOI program allows for the collection of national data across states.
Transportation sector deaths (16) account for more than half of all workplace fatalities, followed by agriculture (5), construction (3) and oil and gas (3). Through the surveillance system he developed, Dr. Sewell noted that the 2012 work-related fatalities were disproportionately older males who are non-residents working in some form of transportation or with heavy equipment.
Construction leads the industry classification in hospitalizations, high medical cost claims and long term disability claims. Mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, and construction lead the industry categories for amputations followed by manufacturing and transportation and warehousing. Additionally in the report, Dr. Sewell notes that total claims activity has been on a downward trend since 2005.
Ongoing Efforts to Improve Workplace Safety in Wyoming
Several industry groups have formed over the past several years dedicated to promote safety in the workplace including: the Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance (WOGISA), the Wyoming Refinery Safety Alliance and the Transportation Safety Coalition. Each has identified needs in its respective industry to improve the safety culture and wellbeing of workers. A construction trade safety group is currently in the beginning stages of formation, along with efforts to connect individuals involved with agriculture through the University of Wyoming Agriculture Extension Services.
In 2012, the Wyoming Legislature provided the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with seven additional safety consultants. The legislation additionally made available $500,000 for a program administered by DWS that provides employers with up to $10,000 to buy safety equipment or safety training that goes above and beyond OSHA requirements.
In 2013, the Legislature created a program within DWS to provide workers’ compensation premium reductions for employers who participate in health and safety consultations.
Governor Mead established the state occupational epidemiologist position within DWS to ensure a closer tie to Wyoming OSHA, the Workers’ Compensation division and data compiled by the department’s Research and Planning division.
To read the full report: 2012 Workforce Epidemiology Report on Occupational Fatalities and Non-fatal Injuries