- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming needs to hire more workplace safety inspectors and allow police to pull over and ticket drivers not wearing their seat belts, the state’s outgoing workplace safety epidemiologist said.

Wyoming had the worst workplace fatality rate of any state five times between 2000 and 2010. Many of those fatalities were drivers for the oil and gas industry.

The state workplace safety epidemiologist tracks and analyzes injury statistics to help businesses and Wyoming policymakers make improvements. State epidemiologist Mack Sewell plans to retire this month.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and Gov. Matt Mead seem serious about improving working conditions in Wyoming, Sewell told the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/12Yxxkg) in a recent interview.

Even so, Sewell said more work is needed.

“I think we have gotten more people’s attention on the issue,” Sewell said. “But I haven’t seen some of the big policy changes I think it is going to take to get a sustained downward trend.”

Wyoming needs to improve safety for workers at agricultural facilities and increase workplace inspections, Sewell said.

Under current state law, police can ticket people for seat belt infractions but can’t pull over drivers because they’re not buckled up. A tougher seat belt law could improve worker safety on Wyoming’s roads and highways, Sewell said.

Industry officials and workplace safety lobbyists praised Sewell. The data in his reports help companies focus their attention on areas of greatest concern, said Jack Bedessem, president of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Safety Alliance.

“He always brought a very common-sense and pragmatic approach in looking at Wyoming incident, injury and fatality data,” Bedessem said.

Sewell, 65, has spent two years in the job. He will be replaced by Meredith Towle, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment epidemiologist, who is scheduled to begin Dec. 15.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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