Workers’ compensation benefits have been available to workers for 100 years. As we acknowledge and celebrate a century of improved working conditions and protection for injured workers, it is important to recognize just how much work remains to be done. There is no denying that employees today have access to far more benefits and insurance coverage through workers’ compensation than their ancestors 100 years ago. With that being said, the benefits, coverage and requirements vary from state-to-state making it difficult to understand exactly how workers’ compensation works across the board.

In addition to varying workers’ compensation programs, the type of work performed or industry in which you are employed plays an important factor in the benefits available. Employers in states with a large labor force such as Montana may find it is more expensive to provide workers’ compensation insurance than other areas where the labor force is smaller. Using Montana as an example, consider the number of workers who are employed by oil drilling companies and mining operations. Both occupations are labor intensive, with workers’ more likely to experience injuries and even fatalities on the job. Businesses in this state will pay more for coverage regardless of their industry simply because of the number of claims processed and paid out each year.

With so many factors affecting workers’ compensation programs on the state level, it is not surprising that many states are considering reforms. In fact, several states have already adopted new workers’ compensation systems, in some cases reducing or limiting benefits available to injured workers. Because of this, it is important for all states to pay close attention to the workers’ compensation system in use, as well as any reforms which may be proposed. Unless and until a more organized system is in place, individual states must consider what is best for both their workers and the businesses which employ them.