Worker’s Compensation is not a new concept. In fact, America was a bit behind when it pertained to worker’s compensation; especially when compared to other parts of the world.
According to Insureon, “Sumerian culture – in the early 2000 b.c. – was the first to employ some sense of worker’s comp for injured workers. It isn’t quite the same as it is in modern day eras, but it was the very first step. Considering other countries and cultures employed a semblance of worker’s compensation over the centuries, America finally jumped on board in the 1900s.” (Insureon, 2014).
Regardless of the ancient history of worker’s compensation, America didn’t get their inspiration to attempt to implement the benefits until Germany utilized such a program. Ann Clayton, of the Social Security Administration (SSA) stated, “Germany had the first modern workers’ compensation laws, known as Sickness and Accident Laws, which were enacted following their introduction by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1884. The next such laws were adopted in England in 1897. America followed suit in 1910.”(Clayton, 2005).
Looking over the history of worker’s compensation and how late to the game America was I wondered why this would be the case. However, as I thought on it I came to theorize several things.
America technically wasn’t a free country until the late 1700s. During this time, they were fighting to break free from European rule. Once America broke free there were still other things to contend with. There were the fights with the Native Americans which led to the Trail of Tears, and horrible massacres that took place. Then there was early slavery of Africans, natives, etc. At that time period it is highly unlikely that people or businesses were concerned with their injured workers, it was more likely they were concerned about their bottom line and the money they would lose. Once slavery was abolished in the late 1800s would be when things would start to move forward, but it would still be another 15 years or so before worker’s compensation truly begins to be implemented.
So, in theory America was in too much of its infancy for hundreds of years to really focus on matters such as worker’s comp, Osha, regulations, etc. It had other matters that it felt were much more important.
In this aspect it makes sense. Of course, the Roman empire would have some semblance of it during their time period, they had already been around for a long enough time to begin to establish such a program. The same would apply to the ancient Chinese and Greeks.
Clayton, A. (2005, May). Workers’ Compensation: A Background for Social Security Professionals. Retrieved from Social Security Administration: https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v65n4/v65n4p7.html
Insureon. (2014, May 06). A Brief (Non-Boring) History of Workers’ Compensation. Retrieved from Insureon: https://www.insureon.com/blog/post/2014/05/06/history-of-workers-comp.aspx