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INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS IN UNITED STATES. From Statement of Royal Meeker, Commissioner U. S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Any attempt to give the number of industrial accidents occurring in the United States must be the result of estimates, for adequate records are not yet in existence. In the first place, most of the States do not yet receive satisfactory reports. Before the enactment of compensation laws, reports were exceedingly unsatisfactory, as many employers entirely neglected making reports of their industrial accidents to any State official. With the coming into effect of the compensation laws, this condition is rapidly being changed for the better, but such a change cannot come about in one or two years. A considerable period is necessary for the education of the employer as to the importance of accident reporting, even in his own interest.
A second reason for the lack of adequate records and reports, even under compensation laws, is the lack of uniformity in requirements. The laws are not uniform in covering all industrial employments. Establishments below a certain size are in some cases excluded. Agriculture is in most cases excluded, while railroad employments, so far as those persons employed in interstate concerned, are covered by the reports to the Interstate Commerce Commission. These reports have heretofore not been entirely satisfactory. The Interstate Commerce Commission's definition of a fatal accident was formerly one where death ensued within 24 hours of the accident. It is probable that this omitted 8 or 10 per cent of the actual fatalities. The Commission's reports of non-fatal accidents have probably also been incomplete. New rules, however, have recently been put into effect by the Commission, and it is probable that these rules, together with the educational effect of workmen's compensation laws, and the safety movement will result in greatly improved statistics of accidents.
The estimates given in bulletin 157, give the number of fatal industrial accidents in a year at 25,000, and the number of non-fatal injuries involving a disability of more than four weeks at approximately 700,000, but the accident disabilities of four weeks and less greatly exceed in number those of over
pur weeks. According to the best information available, approximately 80% of all accidents involving a disability of more than one day are those in which the disability is four weeks and less. If, therefore, it is desired to include in the estimate of industrial accidents all those in which the disability is more than one day, the total number of industrial accidents would be approximately 3,625,000, of which approximately 60% or 2,175,000, involved a disability of more than one week, and approximately 40%, or 1,450,000 involved a disability of one week or less.
Estimate of Fatal Industrial Accidents in the United States
in 1913, by Industry Groups.
By FREDERICK L. HOFFMAN. (Bulletin U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, No. 157, p. 6.)
Number Fatal in. Rate
of dustrial per Industry Group
employees 1 accidents ? 1,000 Metal Mining
170,000 680 4.00 Coal Mining
150,000 450 3.00 Navigation
150,000 450 3.00 Railroad Employees
1,750,000 4,200 2.40 Electricians (Light and Power)
.68,000 153 2.25 Navy and Marine Corps
62,000 115 1.85 Quarrying
150,000 255 1.70 Lumber Industry
531,000 797 1.50 Soldiers, United States Army
73,000 109 1.49 Building and construction.
1,500,000 1,875 1.25 Draymen, teamsters, etc.
686,000 686 1.00 Street railway employees
320,000 320 1.00 Watchmen, policemen, firemen
.75 Telephone and telegraph (including linemen). : 245,000 123 .50 Agricultural pursuits, including forestry and animal husbandry
12,000,000 4,200 .35 Manufacturing (general)
7,277,000 1,819 .25 All other occupied males
4,678,000 3,508 .75 All occupied males
30,760,000 22,515 .73 All occupied females
7,200,000 540 .075 1 Partly estimated.
Bibliography. Among important general works of reference mention may be made of the treatise on “Work Accidents and the Law," by Crystal Eastman, published in 1910 in connection with the Pittsburgh Survey; the volume on “Risks in Modern Industry,” published by the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 1911, and, finally, the proceedings of the first and second annual meetings of the National Council for Industrial Safety, better known as the Co-operative Safety Congress.
The labor press will not begin to be the power it should be until the people in whose interests it is published begin to show it a little of the deference and respect that they now bestow upon the press of their opponents.
When the workers acquire the virtue of self-dependence a great many “friends of labor" will have to adopt some other profession.
Progress During 1915.
By I. M. RUBINOW. The movement for workmen's compensation for industrial injuries which began in this country with the act of May 30, 1908, covering only employees of the United States government has made very substantial progress during 1915, as far as extension to new states is concerned. At the beginning of 1915 there were 23 acts in effect, the odd years being the years when most legislatures meet. New laws were enacted in Oklahoma, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming, so that by the beginning of 1916, 31 states had laws of this class besides the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, and there is also legislation covering U. S. employees, in the Canal Zone and the Philippine Islands, making altogether 36 compensation systems. The territory not yet covered by some system of compensation is at present confined almost exclusively to the South. In the beginning of 1916 only the following states had failed to pass compensation acts: Ala-' bama, Arkansas, Delaware, Dist. of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky (enacted a law in 1916), Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah.
In addition to new acts, a good many states revised their legislation usually improving or extending former enactments.
Since the first state act that remained in force was passed in 1911, the progress made during five years, in view of the difficulties offered by our political system, is fairly gratifying. The south has always been backward in social legislation, but nevertheless, even in the south considerable progress has been made as is proven by the acts of Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky, and in several other southern states official commissions are at work, so that the final acceptance of the compensation bills throughout the country is a matter of a comparatively short time.
It does not follow therefrom that the compensation situation can be described as at all satisfactory from the point of view of the American wage working class; in fact, with the exception of two or three states the direct opposite holds true and perhaps all of the acts will have to be re-written in order to comply with at least reasonable demands that the American wage workers may put upon the compensation legislation. The value of a compensation act depends upon the character of its provisions, and without going into too great a detail, the following points are essential:
The Essential Points. First: The extent of the act; that is, the groups of wage workers covered and the extent to which the entire wage working class is protected.
Second: The scope of the act or the nature of accidents or injuries covered.
Third: The scale of benefits is perhaps the most important feature of a workmen's compensation law because inevitable comparison must be made between the opportunity of obtaining a verdict under the old liability situation and the compensation given under the new system. The greater security of indemnity under a compensation act should not be bought at too great a reduction in the amount to be obtained.
Fourth: Provisions for a system of insurance established. This is, perhaps, not as important a feature as it would appear from the emphasis placed upon it in American discussions of compensation laws, nevertheless it is of importance to the extent to which it provides a guarantee of payment, and from a broad public point of view to the extent to which, under a subterfuge, social protective legislation creates a new field for profit of private insurance enterprise.
Fifth: To these broad general standards, another one, specifically American must be added, based upon the distinction between compulsory and elective laws. For presumably constitutional difficulties, most of the states find it impossible to adopt compulsory compensation acts, and the compensation principle was smuggled in through the so-called legislative system by which both the employers and employees are urged to accept the compensation law under penalty of a more stringent employers' liability situation for the employer who refuses the act or a less stringent employer's liability situation for the employee who would refuse the act. While in most states the elective compensation laws become universal in their acceptance, at least in one state the compensation act is practically a dead letter, namely, New Hampshire, and the bad effect has been more general than that because under the necessity of making compensation more attractive to the employer than the old system of employer's liability, it was necessary to reduce the benefits under the compensation law.
An analysis of the old existing compensation acts is a complicated matter. The interested reader may be referred to various analyses recently published of which the best are probably those to be found in Bulletins Nos. 126 and 185 of the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the very comprehensive analysis, prepared by Prof. F. Robertson Jones, and published by the Workmen's Compensation Publicity Bureau. In the table given here only the important features of compensation acts will be indicated so as to permit of some estimate as to the comparative values of those acts and the comparative necessity for amendment. Summing up the general status of compensation in this country, only eleven of the systems are compulsory, including the states of Arizona, California, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington, Wyoming, the Territory of Hawaii, the Canal Zone, and the U. S. Act. As far as the extent of insurance is concerned practically all the acts leave very substantial portions of the working class unprotected, the only exception being the State of New Jersey, with an act, very poor in many respects, but satisfactory in regard to its coverage. In some states all employees except domestic and agricultural labor, and casual employees are covered. In others the limitation is still narrower, only given lists of hazardous or “extra hazardous” injuries being protected. In almost all the states the compensation is given for accidental injuries only, but in California the system has been extended by a special amendment to occupational diseases, and in Massachusetts, and to some extent in Wisconsin, diseases due to occupation may be compensated. The prevailing scale of compensation is unfortunately utterly inadequate, being 50% of the average wages in some 22 out of 34 acts. It rises to 55% in Indiana; to 60% in Hawaii and Texas; to 65% in California, Kentucky and Wisconsin; to 66 2-3% in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, and specific uniform benefits are provided in two or three states.
It should be quite obvious that at least all the necessary medical care that an injured workman requires should be provided for, but even in this respect most American acts are extremely miserly, and medical care in many of them is limited to the first two weeks only; in others an additional limitation of the total cost of medical aid to $100, $50, or even $25, as in Pennsylvania, is established.
A very serious aspect of compensation acts is the prevailing waiting period during which no compensation, except medical benefits, is paid, which is two weeks in most states and even three weeks in Colorado, and only in Illinois, Wisconsin, Nevada, Texas, West Virginia and Ohio, has it been reduced to one week, so that under ordinary circumstances the injured employee may have to wait three weeks before