Workplace fatalities in Wyoming reached the highest number in five years in 2012, slightly surpassing the number of deaths the state has seen in each of the past several years.
Last year, 35 people died on the job in Wyoming, up from 32 in 2011 and 33 in 2010, the state Department of Workforce Services said. The 2012 figure was the highest in Wyoming since 2007.
Wyoming consistently has had the worst or second-worst workplace fatality rate of any state over the past decade. Many of the deaths are in the oil and gas industry.
Transportation accidents such as vehicle crashes continue to account for just over half of Wyoming’s workplace fatalities, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Wyoming’s high workplace fatality rate has driven considerable discussion and legislation in recent years.
Last year, the Legislature established a $500,000 Safety Improvement Fund to help employers acquire workplace safety training and safety equipment. Forty-five businesses have used the fund to get equipment above what they’re required to have, said Joan Evans, director of the Department of Workforce Services.
Legislation last year also paid for seven new workplace safety inspectors who got to work in January.
“We are really starting to see employers use them as resources. I believe that is because they are located outside Cheyenne in the communities,” Evans said.
Businesses can invite the inspectors to conduct a safety study and make recommendations without the risk of incurring penalties for violations.
Kim Floyd, executive director of the Wyoming AFL-CIO, questioned the success of those efforts. Wyoming has a “major problem” if roughly the same number of employees are dying each year, he said.
“Killing 35 citizens isn’t acceptable to us. We all can do a better job. It’s just frustrating. We’re all in this,” he said.
Nationwide, workplace deaths have been declining for two decades. A preliminary count of workplace deaths nationwide in 2012 was down 7 percent from 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wyoming was among 16 states where worker deaths increased. Workplace fatalities declined in 32 states and remained unchanged in two states.
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