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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
A measure intended to increase workplace safety is making its way through the Wyoming House of Representatives. The bill is intended to encourage companies to contact OSHA to determine if they're doing what they can to ensure workplace safety. Grants will be provided to help companies implement safety programs and buy necessary equipment. Cheyenne Democrat Mary Throne had wanted stiffer penalties to ensure compliance, but she is hopeful that this approach will work. “I certainly think we need to provide more resources to employers and to OSHA to help those folks who want to engage in th
Representative Tom Lubnau has drafted legislation aimed at improving workplace safety in Wyoming.
The bill would allocate $250,000 dollars in grant money for companies who want to conduct trainings or purchase safety equipment but don’t have the resources to do so. It would also enable the Department of Employment to hire five additional safety consultants, who would do courtesy visits to work sites.
Gov. Matt Mead says tougher regulations aren’t the only answer to improving workplace safety.
“I want to be careful before we move down that path, because I also think that industry, on a voluntary basis, has a role to play,” Mead said. “I think enforcement is also part of it. But … we need to make sure that we have the data on what are the cause of these accidents and what are possible corrections for those accidents.”
Mead was speaking to the Wyoming Press Association in Laramie.