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Wyoming Most Dangerous State For Workers (Again)

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

Wyoming is once again the state with the highest rate of workplace-related deaths according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Wyoming's Workforce Services. Last year, it was third. 31 workers died on the job in 2018 compared to 20 the year before. 

State occupational epidemiologist Meredith Towle said that 55 percent increase is mainly due to a significant spike in transportation related fatalities. In 2017, there were only 11 transportation related worker deaths but in 2018, it rose to 19. She said, it's not just truck driver accidents on Wyoming's mountain roads or in the oil and gas industry, there were also more ATV crashes on farms and ranches. She added that the people killed were often older.

"The workforce age 65 and older is only around 5 or 6 percent but there tends to be around 10 to 15 percent of workers that are 65 and older in these occupational injury fatality data. Older workers may be at higher risk," she said.

Towle said Wyoming continues to lead states for worker deaths because of an unfortunate mix of its low working population and a large number of high risk industries such as construction, mining and agriculture.

But Towle said these accidents are still preventable.

"We really want to make sure that employers are tapping into the resources that are available to them for training and education of their workforce," she said. "Any employer registered for Wyoming worker's compensation can tap into free technical safety assistance on their worksite through our safety and risk program."

Towle said the counties with the most work-related fatalities were Natrona, Campbell, Sweetwater and Laramie because that’s where Wyoming's largest population centers are.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Melodie Edwards, at medward9@uwyo.edu.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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