The good news: last year, Wyoming saw 12 percent fewer occupational fatalities than in 2010, marking the fourth consecutive year of below-average fatalities for the state.
The bad news: Wyoming still had 29 occupational fatalities in 2011, only four fewer than in 2010 and only five lower than the average of 34 annual fatalities since 1992.
Most states with similar numbers have well over double Wyoming's population. For instance Maine, with its population of more than 1.3 million, still has fewer occupational fatalities at 26 than Wyoming, population 568,000.
The safety culture in Wyoming has been under scrutiny in recent months, prompting legislature to allow for eight new Occupational Safety and Health Administration hires for the state. But David Bullard, senior economist for the state, said to take the numbers with a grain of salt.
"There is not always a direct relationship between workplace fatalities and workplace safety," he said in a release. "For example, suicides and homicides that occur in the workplace are included as occupational fatalities. In other cases, a sudden illness may be nearly coincidental with an accident that results in a workplace fatality. Occupational fatalities are counted in the state where the injury occurred, not necessarily the state of residence or the state of death."
In 2011, transportation incidents, including highway and aircraft crashes, made up 58.6 percent of all workplace deaths. This statistic is a testament to Wyoming's sparse population in a huge area, forcing many to travel extensively for their jobs.
Of Wyoming's fatalities, 11 deaths last year occurred in trade, transportation and utilities. Nine deaths occurred in natural resources and mining and the remaining nine occurred in other industries.
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