Online Program

Adoption of occupational disease compensation in early workers' compensation statutes

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 12:46 p.m. - 1:02 p.m.

Glenn Shor, PhD, MPP, Calif Department of Industrial Relations, Berkeley, CA
The history of the APHA Occupational Health and Safety section runs parallel to the efforts in the US to create a state regulatory and compensation system that would be a progressive force for injury and illness prevention.  Despite early 20th century recognition and study of many specific hazardous exposures at work, prevention efforts were often either nonexistent or ineffective.  Alice Hamilton, MD, recognized that occupational diseases were cheap for economic, political, and social reasons: There was no system of compensation to equate social and private costs; there were few "factory inspectors expert and courageous enough" to impose compliance costs; and most of the factory workers and injury victims were foreign born and non-English speaking, and were thus less able to protect themselves.  Early workers’ compensation systems in the US restricted coverage to cases of accidental injury.  While many workers were afflicted with chronic diseases, long latency conditions, and cumulative trauma disorders, the initial laws and regulations, both at federal and state levels, did not include ways to cover these conditions.  In order to provide incentive to employers to reduce the amount of such injury and illness, mechanisms began to define what which conditions would be made compensable.  New epidemiological and actuarial knowledge needed to be developed to price the coverage from an insurance underwriting viewpoint, and determine how to handle disease in administrative courts from an evidence and proof perspective. This paper attempts to understand these early efforts, and contrast those efforts with contemporary challenges of similar importance and urgency.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe the history and development of workers’ compensation systems in 1910s toward addressing issues of occupational disease

Keyword(s): Labor, Workplace

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been researching history of occupational health and safety within the OHS section, chaired 100th anniversary commemoration committee, and am also researching the history of occupational disease compensation in California and nationwide during the progressive era of the early 1900s.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.