Gov. Matt Mead announced today that he will shuffle vacant positions within state government, and possibly make new hires, to beef up resources at Wyoming Occupational Health and Administration (OSHA) as part of the state’s larger effort to curb on-the-job fatalities and injuries.
“Over the last few years there has been a growing emphasis among Wyoming workers, Wyoming companies and state government to keep employees safe,” Governor Mead said in a prepared statement on Tuesday afternoon. “My office and the Department of Workforce Services want to augment those efforts and that is what we are proposing today.”
Mead said he will create three new positions in the Wyoming OSHA program by moving vacant positions from other divisions of the Department of Workforce Services to Wyoming OSHA.
“This movement of vacant positions can be done without legislation,” Mead said.
Additionally, Mead said he is working with state lawmakers to draft a bill that would provide five more OSHA consultants, “funded out of the Industrial Accident Fund.” Existing state statutes allow for expenditures related to workplace safety programs from the Industrial Accident Fund.
“New OSHA employees, whether three or eight, will be housed in Wyoming OSHA within the Department of Workforce Services. If the number is eight, Governor Mead and Director Evans are proposing seven employees for safety consultations and one additional compliance inspector,” according to a press release from the governor’s office today.
“The news coming out of the Governor’s office today is exciting. WOGISA is very supportive of the Governor’s statement and efforts to help make Wyoming safer for it workers. WOGISA (Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Alliance) is pleased to hear of the movement to get another (epidemiologist)in place in a timely manner,” WOGISA organizer Bonnie Foster said in a prepared statement to WyoFile.
Foster said all stakeholders in Wyoming need to work together to bring about a culture of safety, “and WOGISA has been working this direction and is glad to be one of the leading forces, along with the Governor, OSHA and Workfoce Services.”
John Robitaille, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told WyoFile, “We hope the additional personnel is hired at Wyoming OSHA to ensure additional opportunities for safety consultations are increased dramatically and agree that additional inspectors will help us reach our goals. We offer our assistance to the Governor, if needed, to help him help us improve our workforce safety.”
“These additional people can respond to requests from companies and employees who want a safety consultation,” Governor Mead said. “There are 23,000 employers in Wyoming and only six people to do safety consultations or inspections. This proposal is an important step in supporting companies who want to improve safety procedures and a needed step to keep workers safe.”
For several years now, state and industry officials have resisted calls for legislation that backers claim would help save workers’ lives, such as a tougher seatbelt law, more OSHA inspections, stiffer penalties for safety violations, and affirmation of Wyoming’s “duty of care” law, which holds oil and gas operators liable for their own proven negligence in the death or injury of a contract worker on their job sites.
Last week, state officials met with representatives of the Wyoming AFL-CIO and the Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER) to discuss approaches toward stepping up Wyoming OSHA’s presence in the construction, oil and natural gas industries — which represent the state’s deadliest occupational sectors, according to state and federal data.