April 28th is recognized in the United States and around the world as Worker’s Memorial Day to commemorate workers who have died from work-related illnesses or injuries.
People everywhere will get up and head in to their jobs without giving much thought to workplace safety and whether their lives may be in peril just by being at work. For the most part, the American workplace is a much safer place today than it was in times past.
Do you know that the early history of our nation was not one that favored workplace safety? Early American jobsites were not regulated, and employers had no requirements to look out for the safety of their workers. The Industrial Revolution in the United States brought about an age of mechanization. Laborers were not skilled in the use of equipment, and jobsites were rampant with health risks and workplace injuries.
In the early 1900s, there were more than 3,000 railroad workers who lost their lives. More workers in other industries continued to die due to unsafe working conditions. In 1913, more than 25,000 workers died in the U.S. in work-related accidents with 700,000 receiving serious workplace injuries.
Before the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act of 1915, workers who were injured or disabled at work had to prove negligence against their employers to receive compensation. Civil lawsuits were difficult to prove and judges often sides with employers over injured workers. By 1930 all but four states had workers compensation laws to protect injured workers, and in 1948, Mississippi became the last U.S. state to enact workers compensation laws.
Today, workers compensation laws in the U.S. are state, rather than federally regulated, and all U.S. states, except for Texas, require employers with three or more workers to carry worker’s compensation insurance.
The United States has made great strides in worker safety, but we still have a long way to go. Take some time this Workers’ Memorial Day to recognize the importance of workplace safety!