workplace safety

Associated Press

For the first time, Wyoming employers could face stiff fines if their workers die on the job.   

The state does not currently distinguish workplace fatalities from other kinds of safety violation, but under a bill endorsed by the Joint Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee large employers could be fined up to $250-thousand dollars and those who employ fewer than 250 employees could face fines up to 50-thousand dollars.

Senator Charles Scott says Wyoming’s workplace safety record is among the worst in the country and it’s time to send a message.

Holly Frontier

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined a Cheyenne refinery $153,000 for allegedly violating several federal regulations. The EPA alleges that Frontier Refining wasn’t properly training its employees in safety practices and that it misreported or didn’t report the presence of certain toxic chemicals on-site. David Cobb works with the EPA’s enforcement office. He says that’s important information.

A miner was killed at Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the Powder River Basin over the weekend, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The Gillette News Record reports that Darwin Lee Reimer, 51, was driving a haul truck when it went over a highwall. 

Paul via Flickr

A woman working at the Western Sugar Cooperative facility in Torrington was seriously injured after a high fall last week.

This injury comes after another worker died from a fall at Western Sugar’s Lovell facility in January. Wyoming safety inspectors fined the company almost 200 thousand dollars in July for safety violations.

John Ysebaert is with Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, which oversees safety inspectors. He says Western Sugar has recently seen a complete turnover in management.

Jack Holt / AP Photo/Kemmerer Gazette

A worker has died after an explosion at a natural gas storage tank in western Wyoming. Jared Loftiss, 35, of Marbleton, Wyoming was working for Hughes Enterprises, an oilfield services company based out of Marbleton.

Blastcube

This week, Wyoming Public Radio aired a series of stories on workplace fatalities in the oil and gas industry. The series looked North Dakota’s high oil and gas fatality rate, Wyoming’s response to its own rising death toll, and whether there are lessons to be learned from the commercial fishing industry in Alaska, which has cut fatalities in half in the last decade. Emily Guerin of Prairie Public Radio and Stephanie Joyce of Wyoming Public Radio share some of their takeaways after reporting the series.

Lauren Rosenthal / KUCB

Click here to read Part 3 of the Dark Side Of The Boom series.

The dangers of the Bering Sea crab fishery have been made famous by the reality TV show Deadliest Catch. But, in the last 15 years, that industry has become much safer, in large part thanks to collaboration between industry, scientists and regulators. We wondered: are there lessons that the oil and gas industry could learn from the crab industry’s safety gains?

INSIDE ENERGY: Dark Side Of The Boom: How Dangerous Is Too Dangerous?

Sep 18, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

It's no secret that the oil and gas industry is dangerous. As the industry has grown to employ over half a million oil and gas workers nationwide, the number of fatalities has grown as well. Last year, 112 oil and gas workers died on the job; the year before, 142. Nationwide, oil and gas workers are still six times more likely to be killed on the job than the average American.

Flickr user Lindsey G

Click here to read Part 1 of the Dark Side Of The Boom series.

North Dakota is the most dangerous state in the country for oil and gas workers.

But that fact hasn't gotten a lot of attention until now. Governor Jack Dalrymple announced to Inside Energy this week that he's planning to bring together the state’s top safety officials to look into fatalities in the industry, and to see what they can do better.

An oil and gas worker pours a defoaming agent into the drill string.
Melodie Edwards

Too many jobs, not enough bodies. That’s the dilemma of many Wyoming construction companies these days that can’t keep up with the building demands of the state’s energy boom. An influx of Latino workers are moving to Wyoming to take up the slack. And national figures show that Hispanics lead the nation in fatal injuries. And with Wyoming having one of the worst records for workplace fatalities, the question is: are Latinos putting themselves in the line of fire? 

A Wyoming jury has awarded $5.1 million dollars in damages to an oil and gas worker who was injured on the job in 2011.

Then 22-year-old Horr was part of a crew working on a Merit Energy oil well when built-up pressure escaped, sending a piece of rubber through his left arm and shattering it. Attorney Bryan Ulmer with the Spence Law Firm says Horr has lost use of his arm as a result.

Robert Verzo via Flickr

If a proposed plan is adopted, employers in the state could face some significant changes to how worker’s compensation sets its premiums.  Right now, Wyoming only factors in how severe a company’s claims are.   This new system—called a split plan-- would hold companies accountable for both severity and frequency, as is the case in most states. 

AFL-CIO

The AFL-CIO, a coalition group of labor unions, has released a report blasting industry for failing to make workplaces safer, especially in oil and gas.  Wyoming has ranked as one of the five most deadly states to work in for the last ten years.  In 2012, only North Dakota had more workplace fatalities.  Kim Floyd, Executive Secretary for the Wyoming chapter of the AFL-CIO says it has a lot to do with the focus of both states’ economies.

Worker safety advocates and family members gathered in Cheyenne Monday morning to commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day. The day remembers those who have been killed or injured while on the job. 

Dan Neal with the Equality State Policy Center organized the event.

Started it by ringing a bell 35 separate times to remember the 35 workers who died on the job in Wyoming in 2012.”

A small fire continues to burn at a western Wyoming natural gas processing plant idled by an explosion since last week.

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.

Sinclair working to fix safety problems, OSHA says

Nov 7, 2013

The head of Wyoming’s Occupation Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, says the Sinclair Refinery is working to improve its safety record.

Earlier this week, we reported that OSHA would consider shutting down the refinery if another life-threatening incident happens at the plant.

But the agency’s John Ysebaert says he’s hopeful that that won’t be necessary.

There were 35 workplace fatalities in the state last year, according to a report released by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. That’s up from 32 in 2011.

 The deadliest occupations were in the “trade, transport and utilities” category, with 12 fatalities, followed by jobs in the “natural resources and mining” category, which had 10 deaths.

 Almost half of all work place fatalities were the result of what the report called “transportation incidents.” 

Two hospitalized after Sinclair refinery fire

Jul 31, 2013

Two people were taken to the hospital after a fire started at the Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins yesterday.

John Ysebaert with Wyoming’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, says the fire started when workers who were erecting scaffolding tripped a valve. That released so-called “super-heated diesel,” which ignites when it hits the atmosphere.

OSHA is investigating the incident.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services is hosting a summit in Rock Springs on Tuesday and Wednesday aimed at helping make Wyoming’s workplaces safer.

Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the nation. The summit will offer trainings and give companies a chance to share ideas about how to prevent workplace accidents.

Workforce Services Director Joan Evans says they’ll also honor employees who took steps to protect fellow workers.

Wyoming’s incoming Speaker of the House plans to introduce another piece of legislation that attempts to improve Workplace Safety in the state.  

Gillette Republican Tom Lubnau is proposing a ten-percent reduction in Workers Compensation rates for companies that complete the Workplace Safety Contracts program.  Lubnau says that involves helping employers create a safer work environment for their employees.

           

Wyoming's Workplace Deaths Drop

Sep 20, 2012

The Wyoming Department of Work Force Services says the number of workplace fatalities decreased by four from 2010 to 2011. 

David Bullard of the Research and Planning section of the department says for the fourth consecutive year the number of workplace deaths in Wyoming was below the average of 34 per year and in 2011 the number was 29.  But Bullard says this is far from a trend.

“No I wouldn’t say that.  I mean we saw a slight decrease in 2011, but the random nature of these accidents makes it so we can’t rule out that it’s something random going on.”

AFL-CIO

The Executive Secretary of the Wyoming AFL-CIO – a workers union organization- remains optimistic that the state’s efforts to reduce workplace deaths may work.  

On this Labor Day weekend, Kim Floyd is pleased that that the state has increased the number of safety inspectors in Wyoming by seven, and has found money for workplace safety grants for businesses.  But Floyd says it will probably take some time until there is improvement.

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.

Wyoming has hired a new epidemiologist tasked with trying to document, track and help reduce workplace injuries and deaths. Doctor Mack Sewell  is from the New Mexico Department of Health. 

Wyoming Workforce Services Director Joan Evans says that Sewell will hopefully carry forward work that identified a number things that could be improved to reduce workplace deaths in the state.  Evans adds that since he will be working for the agency,it should enhance his ability to get data.                         

Three workers at the Sinclair refinery near
Rawlins have been flown to a burn center in Colorado following a
flash fire.
     Sinclair Oil Corp. says the incident happened inside a gas
recovery unit at its refinery, about five miles east of Rawlins,
about 10:20 a.m. Tuesday.
     Sinclair Police Chief Jeff Sanders says it was a flash fire and
four workers were originally taken to Memorial Hospital of Carbon
County.
     A Memorial Hospital spokeswoman says three of the workers were

Mining industry re-focuses on safety

May 8, 2012

 In response to concerns about workplace safety, the Wyoming Mining Association is focusing even more on safety issues. 

The Bureau of Labor statistics says that Mining is actually much safer than oil and gas and even the food manufacturing industry.  Coal is among the safest industries in the state and Alpha Coal West’s Steve Rennell says that’s because they have experienced workers.  He says they are trying to focus their attention on workers new to coal.

Wyoming has hired seven new Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety consultants to improve workplace safety in the state.

Workplace safety has been a real problem in Wyoming. The state ranked among the top two in the nation in workplace fatalities in eight of the last nine years. 

John Ysebaert of Workforce Services will oversee the program. He says that, instead of doling out fines for workplace safety violations, the OSHA consultants willhelp small businesses to develop and comply with safety requirements on a voluntary basis.

The legislature has approved an incentive based-worker safety bill.

Wyoming is among the leaders in workplace deaths and the bill provides up to seven new officers who will help companies develop and comply with safety requirements on a voluntary basis. It also provides grant money for small businesses to improve workplace safety.

Kim Floyd of the AFL-CIO says he had wanted tougher penalties for companies and people who violate safe working standards, but he says this bill is a good step.

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