In 2008, Lawyers and Advocates for Wyoming launched a new initiative – The Spence Association for Employee Rights (SAFER). SAFER’s mission is to protect and represent workers and the workforce by improving workplace safety and obtaining justice for injured workers. SAFER works with citizens and legislators in identifying and solving problems affecting injured workers. SAFER will strive to achieve this mission through education, legislation, and zealous representation.
Year after year, Wyoming is consistently one of the most dangerous states in the nation for workers. Due in large part to its natural resources and an ongoing energy boom, Wyoming has become an unacceptably dangerous place for tens of thousands of its citizens to make a living and our workers are being killed and injured at alarming rates.
From 2001-2007, the average nationwide workplace fatality rate was about 4.0 per 100,000 workers. During those years, Wyoming’s workplace fatality rate was at least triple and sometimes quadruple the national average. In 2007, 48 people were killed on the job, the highest number in State history. From 2003-2005, Wyoming had the highest fatality rate in the nation. In 2001, 2002 and 2006, Wyoming had the second highest fatality rate in the nation. Over the last 15 years, the national workplace fatality rate has steadily decreased while Wyoming’s has steadily increased. In addition, the injury and illness rates for Wyoming workers are also consistently higher than the national average.
There is a profound need for improving workplace safety in dangerous industries, and to make sure that if an employee is injured, he or she will quickly and efficiently receive the necessary medical and lost wage benefits guaranteed under Wyoming Workers’ Compensation law. Mark Aronowitz, a Spence Law Firm associate, directs SAFER and has drafted legislation to improve the Workers’ Compensation laws. The Wyoming State Labor, Health & Social Services Committee has been studying the Workers’ Compensation system in preparation for the 2009 general legislative session and we are hopeful that significant improvements will be made.