Wyoming lawmakers are sponsoring new legislation that would enforce higher fines on companies where workers are injured by unsafe work environments. Work accidents have gotten out of control in Wyoming, with a 60 percent increase occurring from 2013 to 2014. Although many are putting the blame on high-risk jobs in the oil, construction and agricultural industries, many times employers have provided unsafe work environments.
Prior attempts to investigate Wyoming’s high number of work accidents have uncovered interesting results. An epidemiologist hired by Wyoming officials claimed “safety occurs as an afterthought” at workplaces across the state. Epidemiologists investigate public health and safety patterns.
The epidemiologist discovered 96 percent of oil and gas industry accidents in Wyoming occurred when safety procedures were ignored.
How are Workers Affected by Unsafe Work Environments?
Let’s use a hypothetical scenario to discuss why the consequences of unsafe work environments are tragic for employees and their families.
Rob has worked in the Wyoming oil industry for six years as a welder. One day he is given a task by his supervisor and starts working. What Rob does not know is that his supervisor has asked him to weld near flammable materials. In a matter of seconds, Rob is killed by an explosion. Rob’s family has lost a loved one and their primary source of income. His two kids will grow up without a father. The family could also be stuck with funeral expenses and medical costs associated with psychological trauma. This tragedy could have been avoided, had Rob’s supervisor not sent him to work near flammable materials.
Unfortunately, these types of stories are not always fiction. Last September, one Wyoming worker died and two others were injured by a flash fire while cleaning storage tanks at a natural gas production facility.
Wyoming workers do not deserve the burden of a disability caused by a preventable accident, and their families do not deserve to lose loved ones. Employers have a legal obligation to provide safe working conditions. The consequences are too severe for workers and their families when safety is neglected.