The Senate today unanimously adopted Sen. Lisa Baker’s resolution marking the 100th anniversary of the adoption of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Law. Baker, R-20th, serves as chair of the Senate’s Labor and Industry Committee.
Her resolution, which she read on the Senate floor, is as follows:
“There are many instances involving individuals, organizations, institutions, and events when we hold 100th anniversary celebrations. But it is not so common for us to acknowledge the centennial of a state law, as we do in this resolution.
The development of the workers’ compensation system, the product of the “Grand Bargain,” was a landmark balancing act that has proved quite durable and a substantial catalyst for improving health and safety standards in the workplace.
The circumstances compelling action a century ago sound familiar – there was substantial outcry over an appalling toll of deaths and injuries among workers, an epidemic some said, and ordinarily divergent interests were applying heavy pressure on legislators to solve the crisis.
That they were serious a solution would stand up is evidenced by the approval of a constitutional amendment that gave rather specific authorization for the General Assembly to act. The workers’ compensation law approved in 1915 forever changed the landscape for employees and employers in respect to occupational safety. No longer would an injury or illness be as catastrophic physically and financially. An unpredictable and unsatisfactory system built around litigation was exchanged for a more predictable and more reliable insurance system. Pennsylvania was by no means an early adopter, but action four years after the first lasting state law in Wisconsin was not bad by standard legislative practice.
This was the foundation on which worker protection and worker safety continue to be built. There have been ten major sets of amendments, the most notable making disease covered by the law.
WC is firmly fixed as a structure in the legal and regulatory landscape, but the details are flexible. There will always be disagreements over cost and coverage levels. There will be workplace changes, fraudulent practices, and the occasional court case that require fixes. As technology and techniques evolve, there will be new risks apparent and new remedies warranted. Worker safety will dominate discussions, for precaution and prevention remain key pieces of the most effective and most economical strategy.
The premises and purposes of the workers’ compensation law have held up remarkably well for a century. The expectation is they will endure far into the future.”