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Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with regulations from OSHA, NFPA, and other safety codes. Find out about other companies' best and worst practices. We scour the internet to provide you with helpful training resources and the latest safety information.


Monday, January 09, 2012

Wyoming AFL-CIO Calls For Sweeping Changes To Improve Safety

Casper, Wyoming
Last week Wyoming was reported as being the worst state for safety.  An article in the Billing Gazette reported:

"An epidemiologist's yearlong study of Wyoming's grim record as one of the worst states for deadly workplace accidents has produced a scathing assessment: Employers consistently fail to enforce safety rules while telling their employees to just 'get the job done.'"

Business Week magazine reported: "Wyoming's overall workplace death rate was more than three and a half times the national average in 2010 and has ranked worst in the nation five of the past 10 years"

"Ignored safety rules correlated with 96 percent of the 62 deaths in Wyoming's petroleum industry from 2001-2008, when objects struck or crushed 16 of 32 workers killed on drilling rigs and 17 of the 25 oil and gas workers killed in vehicle accidents weren't wearing seat belts."

On Friday a pree release from the Wyoming State AFL-CIO and SAFER, released through the Equity State Policy Center, called for sweeping changes in Wyoming to improve worker safety. The press release stated:

Wyoming must make sweeping legislative, agency, policy, and cultural changes to ensure the safety of its workers.

Dr. Timothy Ryan, then the state epidemiologist, extensively documented Wyoming's appalling workplace safety record in his December 19th report to Governor Matt Mead. Wyoming had the nation's highest or second highest workplace fatality rate in the country for eight of the nine years between 2001 and 2009. In 2010 there were 34 workplace fatalities in Wyoming, a 78% increase from 2009.

Dr. Ryan's report also points out the failure of state and industry leaders to take the carnage seriously and do something about it.

"It's high time that state government and the Legislature quit playing games with the lives of workers in Wyoming," said Wyoming State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Kim Floyd.

"Eight years of being worse or second-worst in death-on-the-job is proof that there's a problem in Wyoming that needs to be remedied," he added. "They need to step up to the plate."

Another year has passed but Dr. Ryan's report offers only more of the same palliatives, calling for continuing data collection and monitoring, along with more encouragement of industry efforts to reform itself – efforts that industry itself admits have failed.

"That Wyoming lacks a strong culture of safety should be obvious to anybody familiar with our State's abhorrent workplace safety record," said Mark Aronowitz, lead attorney for SAFER, the Spence Association For Employee Rights. "What we urgently need is a renewed commitment to safety with on-the-ground changes, from the highest levels of our state government down to individual work sites."

The state must use its legal power and moral authority to force industry to adopt the fundamental changes required to, as Gov. Mead says, "… get workers in Wyoming home safely at the end of the day."

Wyoming must:

- Empower OSHA, enabling it to hire more inspectors to not only increase courtesy inspections, but to conduct both scheduled and surprise inspections and subsequently fine and penalize companies violating safety laws. Mandatory inspections should be required following any accident requiring hospitalization;

Coal mine in Wyoming
- Direct OSHA to determine why Wyoming mines, where the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulates safety, have significantly better safety records than other hazardous industries;

- Increase penalties and fines for employers and employees who discourage reporting of injuries to avoid increases in Workers Compensation premiums, to protect safety bonuses, or for any other reason;

- Make company injury records public. MSHA does this. General contractors, worksite owners, and workers, especially those working in ultra and extra hazardous industries, deserve to know whether their sub-contractors, independent contractors, and employers have instilled or rejected a culture of safety.

"Data collection and analysis are fine, but preventing injuries and fatalities must be the primary focus of any meaningful change," Aronowitz said.

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posted by Steve Hudgik
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