Car crashes still top cause of workplace deaths

CASPER — Wyoming has one of the worst rates of workplace-related deaths in the country, with the number of fatalities over three times the national average. A new analysis published on Wednesday by the state’s occupational epidemiologist shows the troubling trend has continued to persist throughout the past several years.

Of the 189 occupational fatalities reported between 2012 and 2018 in the state, over half involved motor vehicle incidents, according to the recent report issued by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. In 2018 alone, 27 workers died while on the job, up from 19 the year before.

The state releases the detailed analysis on workplace deaths every two years, after studying both state and federal data. State experts comb through data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to uncover patterns across industry, county, age and other factors. Doing so helps state leaders develop prevention strategies.

“While the federal CFOI (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) is our official count and rank of workplace fatalities, taking a closer look at these incidents helps us better understand the causes and find prevention solutions that will make a difference statewide,” Meredith Towle, the state’s occupational epidemiologist, said in a statement.

According to the report, an average of 30 workers died in work-related incidents each year between 2012 and 2018. That translates into about one worker dying every 12 days.

Nearly one-third of the work-related deaths occurred in the transportation and warehousing sector. Agriculture and energy industries also reported several deaths during the same period. Fatalities in oil and gas extraction and production industries made up 14% of total deaths.

Most losses occurred in Natrona and Laramie counties, likely due to higher population density and riskier industry activity. Sixty-seven percent of the deaths involved Wyoming residents.

About 13% of worker fatalities identified as Hispanic/Latino. But Hispanic and Latino workers make up just 9% of Wyoming’s workforce, indicating this group sustained a disproportionate share of work-related deaths.

The state agency identified several prevention opportunities to lower the number of deaths occurring each year throughout the state. The report recommends facilitating more ATV safety training and building greater awareness around the benefits of wearing a seat belt using evidence-based strategies.

“We recognize that the numbers reported are so much more than numbers,” Robin Sessions Cooley, director of Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services, wrote in the report. “Each workplace death is a tragedy. Each number represents a loved-one gone, and families and friends grieving. This annual report is intended to reveal opportunities to prevent future occurrences of these tragic events.”