April 28th of each year marks Workers' Memorial Day. This is “an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, [or] injured” on the job. This date was chosen since April 28th also commemorates passage of the Occupational Safety & Health Act.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, there were 2.8 million work-related injuries. Of those, nearly 890,000 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses caused lost time from work. Sadly, that same year, there were 5,333 fatal workplace injuries - which represents a work-related death every 99 minutes.
Workers' Memorial Day is a time to reflect on instances where a worker was injured or died. It's a moment to ask ourselves how we can make workplaces safer, how we can help injured workers heal, and what other resources and support we can provide to them and their families.
In the spirit of Workers' Memorial Day, for those of us who have the privilege of being in the workers' compensation industry, we should find opportunities to practice increased kindness, compassion, and empathy towards injured workers and their families.
I've been in the legal, compliance, and post-settlement administration areas of workers' compensation for over a decade. As General Counsel for Ametros, I'm fortunate to interact with, serve, and support injured workers and their families after settlement. I've seen first-hand how a work-related injury impacts the life of an injured worker and their family. I've witnessed the benefit of kindness, listening, empathizing, and providing support to people who have had their lives forever altered by a tragic workplace event. Each injured worker and their family members have a unique story and their own individual struggles. I've been particularly moved by the story of an injured worker and his wife – Jim and Monica Jones. Since getting to know the Joneses personally, I've been inspired by their perseverance, resilience, and positive attitude. Jim will tell you he's not special, but to me he is a true hero.
The Impact of a Workplace Injury on Family
Family members of injured workers are also deeply affected. As a Board Member for the Massachusetts chapter of Kids' Chance, I've seen first-hand how tragic a work-related accident can be for a family. Kids' Chance is an organization that provides educational scholarships for children whose parents were injured or killed in a work injury. Spouses and children also act as caregivers to an injured worker – which is unpaid and labor-intensive. Oftentimes family members will forego their educational or career goals to care for their injured family member.
The Importance of Humanity in Workers' Comp
Every injured worker deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and humanity. The last element – humanity – is something Ametros' Chairman, Marques Torbert, discussed at length in a very thoughtful talk on Humanity in Workers Compensation. The importance of ensuring an injured worker feels like a human being (and not a claim number, docket number, or task) cannot be understated. This calls on claims professionals and every person in the workers' compensation services chain to put themselves in the shoes of an injured individual and their family. Most of us are fortunate that we'll never suffer a workplace injury, but empathy will allow workers' compensation professionals to connect with injured workers to truly help them.
On this Workers' Memorial Day, and every day, I'd ask everyone in the workers' compensation community to practice increased compassion, kindness, and empathy for injured workers and their family members.