Workplace Situations that Led to the Establishment of the Workers’ Comp

The need to establish a source of financial benefits for workers who got injured on the job or who developed a job-related illness became a major concern for the government during the early part of the 20th century, the time when industrial and construction workers became so much in demand due to the booming economy in the US. The one main drawback, though, that shrouded the industry’s growth then was the frequency of accidents that often resulted to the death and/or severe injuries of young and inexperienced workers, who received no proper job training before being required to use/operate or work in the midst of harmful dusts, hazardous chemicals, dangerous machines, and a messy heap of pulleys, belts and gears.

In connection to the accidents, an article titled, “Making Steel and Killing Men,” wherein journalist William B. Hard muckraked about the very high casualty of workers, was published in Everybody’s Magazine in 1907. In his article, Hard estimated that about 1,200 workers, from a work force of 10,000, were either seriously injured or killed every year.

An equally major concern, this time on the part of the injured workers, was how to cope with the necessities of daily living since being out of work meant having no pay; and besides the food on the table, they also either had to spend for medical treatment and medicine or suffer a longer time in bed. For the needed financial help, sustaining a job-related injury was usually followed by a lawsuit against the employer – a lawsuit, however, which the worker also usually lost.

It was due to this second major concern that the Workers’ Compensation law was established in 1908; its main purpose was to address the financial burden suffered by injured workers by providing them with fast financial assistance.

Workers’ Comp was an insurance benefit program designed to cover lost wages (due to absence from work), cost of medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and death (if the injury or the illness leads to it). The benefit is guaranteed to authentic applicants (workers faking injuries for fraudulent claims have been made in the past), regardless of fault/who caused the accident. Thus, even if the accident were due to the injured worker’s own carelessness or negligence, he/she will still be entitled to receive the benefit in its full amount – the same case even if the company were facing possible bankruptcy since this benefit is not dependent on the company’s or employer’s financial capability.

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