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Illinois Workers' Compensation reforms and worker safety

The Illinois governor is making various appointments to a work injury panel which has been formed in part because of the high premiums that employers pay for Workers Compensation' insurance within our state due to workplace accidents. Likewise, a number of proposals have been passed requiring that arbitrators appointed to Workers' Compensation cases be attorneys that have received training in conducting such procedures and who have to follow and abide by the same ethical practices as judges.

The reforms are expected to decrease Workers' Compensation costs by approximately 9 percent and save Illinois employers around $500 million a year. Yet the policy behind the reforms in saving costs does not necessarily coincide with increased workers' safety.

Americans spend an extremely high number of hours at work, and an extremely high percentage of injuries received in the United States come about at the workplace because of workplace accidents. There are a number of reasons for this that extends well beyond any reform of Workers' Compensation laws.

Too often employers are indifferent to the safety concerns of their workers and this is while the level of workplace accidents is so high. Though a great deal of legislation has been passed concerning the input of various safety measures at the workplace, construction accidents continue to be difficult to predict or prevent.

This is especially true in Chicago where construction is ongoing and much of the work will be performed at heights and with large industrial equipment, scaffolding and ladders. Also, though regulations can be put in place to protect Illinois workers, equipment used by these same workers may come from out-of-state and not be subject to the same production and manufacturing laws.

Injured workers will continue to need the assistance of attorneys to protect them and to seek compensation for their injuries no matter what Workers' Compensation reforms are implemented. If the state of Illinois would truly like to reduce Workers' Compensation costs, a good place to start would be worker safety.

Source: Morton Times News, "Gov. makes appointments to work injury panel," Jan. 27, 2012

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