Wyoming regulatory officials have cited Denver-based Western Sugar Cooperative for hazards at its Torrington and Lovell facilities.
The department of Workforce Services and Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company almost two hundred thousand dollars. The fines were for inadequate safety standards and failure to guard equipment, among other problems.
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?
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.
Despite violations at sister plants, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service never inspected a sugar beet plant in Lovell where an employee was killed in January. Western Sugar Cooperative's Torrington plant received 15 citations in 2013, including one for improper guard rails -- the same problem that led to the death of 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff.
Denver-based Western Sugar Beet Cooperative has been fined $71,000 for violations that led to the death of an employee in January at its facility in Lovell. OSHA and the Wyoming Department of Workforce services allege that because no guard rails had been installed, 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff fell through an opening in the floor into a production pit.
The company was issued 12 violations for serious and repeat workplace hazards. Wyoming Workforce Services Director Joan Evans said in a statement that the young woman’s death was completely unnecessary.
Regulation has been a hot-button topic when it comes to worker safety in Wyoming over the last few years. Despite pressure from worker advocacy groups, legislators have been reluctant to write new laws tackling workplace injuries and fatalities, instead opting for an incentives-based approach.
Dr. Mack Sewell is the state’s occupational epidemiologist. He’s been on the job for about a year and a half, and he recently spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce about his latest report on workplace accidents, released in November, and how the state should move forward.