September 29, 2014

Wyoming Safety Regulator Struggles With Staffing

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Rig Worker North Dakota

Flickr user Lindsey G

Rig Worker North Dakota

With oil and gas development ramping up in Wyoming, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hemorrhaging employees, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

In 2013, Wyoming OSHA lost six of its 22 inspectors. The agency currently has three openings for inspectors. The manager of the inspection division is scheduled to leave next month. And another three inspectors are now in training.

Wyoming has had one of the worst workplace safety records in the nation for the last decade. In 2012, lawmakers authorized funding to hire seven new workplace safety inspectors as part of an effort to improve the state’s track record. But now, as the Tribune reports, the state is having trouble hanging onto those inspectors with increasing competition from the oil and gas industry.

“Often times we are able to bring someone on, but a few months later they receive an offer that, monetarily, is too good to pass up,” said Department of Workforce Services Director Joan Evans.

Although it’s not immediately clear what impact fewer inspectors will have on workplace safety, people are concerned. As Wyoming State Representative Donald Burkhard told the Tribune:

“Wyoming doesn’t want to be known as being a state where it is unsafe to work.”

According to the latest report from the state’s occupational epidemiologist, WYOSHA conducted so-called voluntary compliance inspections at a total of 540 workplaces in 2013. Those inspections are requested by an employer and don’t result in fines, if the problems found are fixed. The report says 360 were visits to general industry sites, 119 to construction sites and 61 for oil and gas sites. The average wait time for an employer requesting an inspection was 62 days in fiscal year 2014, down from 100 in fiscal year 2012.

The oil and gas industry isn’t just snapping up workplace safety inspectors though. As Inside Energy reported earlier this year, oil and gas regulators of all stripes are having trouble hiring and retaining employees.