mack sewell

After just two years on the job, Wyoming’s occupational epidemiologist is leaving. Mack Sewell is the second person to hold the position. His predecessor, Timothy Ryan, quit amid frustration over what he saw as Wyoming’s lack of desire to improve workplace safety. Sewell, on the other hand, is retiring.

The occupational epidemiologist position was created to address Wyoming’s high rate of workplace injuries and fatalities. Sewell says the state has taken steps in the right direction, but that it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions from the limited amount of data available.

Thirty-one workers died on the job in Wyoming in 2012, up from 29 the year before. That’s according to a report by Wyoming’s occupational epidemiologist.  Wyoming has one of the worst workplace death rates in the nation. The report attributes that to the fact that a large proportion of Wyoming’s workforce is employed in high risk occupations like oil and gas, ranching, and construction jobs.

Wyoming’s new occupational epidemiologist is Mack Sewell. He’s tasked with helping the state improve workplace safety. That’s been a topic of discussion for some time, since Wyoming has one of the highest rates of workplace deaths in the nation.  Sewell is currently the state epidemiologist in New Mexico, and he says there, he’s worked extensively on issues such as infectious diseases and drunk driving. He tells Willow Belden that he’s not sure yet what will be first on his agenda here in Wyoming.

Wyoming’s new state epidemiologist, Mack Sewell, says he plans to look at seatbelt enforcement as a means to improve workplace safety.

In 2010, the state had the second highest rate of workplace deaths in the nation.  In fact, Wyoming traditionally ranks near the top in this category. Sewell will be specifically asked to study workplace injuries and deaths, and then work with lawmakers to try to address the problem. 

He says there’s a lot he still needs to learn about Wyoming’s situation, but he says seatbelts are an easy place to start.