Workmen's Compensation

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Jisco Furnace.jpg
Interior view of employees working with hot metal at the Jisco Furnace in Jackson, Ohio, ca. 1920-1935. Wilbur Stout, former chemist at the Columbus Iron and Steel Company and Ohio's state geologist, researched

and collected photographs of blast furnaces in Ohio.

The United States went through a rapid period of industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This industrialization contributed to economic growth and urbanization, among other things, but workers did not always benefit from the advances that were made. There were almost no legal protections for workers during this era, including things like workmen's compensation, health insurance, or laws that would limit work hours or require safe working conditions. If a factory worker was injured on the job, he or she would usually lose that job. The company did not have to provide any benefits to the worker or pay any medical expenses.

Some Progressives became interested in reforms during this time period that would improve conditions for workers. One of these reforms was the establishment of workmen's compensation. If a worker was injured on the job, workmen's compensation would pay medical expenses and provide limited income to the injured worker. It was basically a form of insurance for the worker.

Ohio's first workmen's compensation law was passed during Governor Judson Harmon's second administration in 1911. This first law was voluntary, and many companies did not choose to participate. The law created a state fund to compensate injured workers. The employer paid ninety percent of the cost, and the worker paid the other ten percent. Although many industries were reluctant to participate in the program, the concept of workmen's compensation continued to grow in popularity. In 1912, Ohioans held a constitutional convention. Ultimately, the convention's delegates chose to modify the constitution through amendments rather than replacing the current document. One of the amendments created a compulsory workmen's compensation law. Later that year, Ohio voters ratified the amendment. Ohio companies no longer had a choice about contributing to the workmen's compensation fund. The state legislature further strengthened the law in 1917, and it has been further modified in the decades since.

See Also