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No mining deaths recorded in Wyoming in 2015

Wyoming miners worked all of 2015 without a single recorded job-related fatality, according to state officials. The state’s mining sector typically sees few workplace fatalities, and last year’s performance appears to be part of a national trend.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration reported that work-related accidents claimed 28 miners’ lives nationwide in 2015, a record low since the government started tracking mining deaths. Fatalities at coal mines occurred in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, West Virginia, Alabama and Virginia. Power haulage and machinery accidents were the leading cause among those coal mine deaths.

“While record-low numbers have been achieved, we are mindful that things could change in a heartbeat if we let down our guard,” Joseph A. Main, MSHA Assistant Secretary, said in a statement. “There is still much more to be done to ensure that miners go home after every shift, safe and healthy.”

Wyoming’s State Occupational Epidemiologist Meredith Towle said that while there were no mining deaths in Wyoming last year, workers in other sectors still die from accidents on the job at a high rate here. Wyoming Department of Workforce Services identified 34 occupational fatalities in 2014, compared to 26 fatalities in 2013. Wyoming still ranks among the worst in the nation for on-the-job fatalities.

“The unfortunate news is that over last five or six years we haven’t made any sustained or significant progress in fatalities overall …but we are knocking on the right doors with our workforce partnerships,” Towle said.

Wyoming’s recorded workplace injuries follow the downward trend seen nationwide, Towle said. However, the state’s research suggests more injuries are not being reported.

Wyoming’s occupational fatalities are still driven by transportation, the lack of seatbelt use, as well as work around heavy equipment and in rural locations. In addition to a slate of preventative programs offered by Workforce Services, the state continues to build partnerships in several sectors, Towle said.

For example, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Safety Alliance was formed in 2011 and is still very active, Towle said. Other private-state safety alliances were made with Wyoming refiners, contractors, and those who work in agriculture. A new transportation alliance is working with the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the University of Wyoming.

“It’s the small employers we need to keep working at to make sure they’re engaged in all of these activities,” Towle said.

Creative Commons photo by Greg Goebel

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Energy and policy reporter Dustin Bleizeffer recently completed a John S. Knight Journalism fellowship at Stanford University. He has covered energy and natural resource issues in Wyoming for 18 years. Follow Dustin on Twitter @DBleizeffer

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