Rutland is a small Ohio village about 100 miles southeast of Columbus. The U.S. Census Bureau says just 393 people live in the pastoral setting. The quiet, rural life there was on a day long ago ripped open and blasted apart; a day that serves as a reminder of why workers’ compensation is such a vital part of today’s safety net.
It has been a little more than 112 years since the two-story frame building housing the Humphrey and Holt Canning Factory was “blown to atoms,” as a newspaper of the day described it. The steam boiler that powered the factory’s machinery exploded on Aug. 10, 1903, killing four workers, including two children, and badly burning two adult workers.
Killed in the blast were an 11-year-old boy and a 10-year-old boy, both helping with the canning process. Also killed: a 67-year-old veteran of the Civil War and a 33-year-old cannery employee, according to a recent newspaper article recounting the horror of the long-ago disaster.
Two survivors were badly burned in the incident. The explosion happened as the small factory was gearing up for the fall cider season. It also happened 8 years before Ohio became one of the first states in the nation to implement workers’ compensation benefits.
Back in 1903 when the canning factory exploded, workers injured on the job were on their own. They got no wage replacement, as injured workers do today. and big medical bills were theirs to pay off — if they could. It was a different time, with a mindset very much at odds with today’s thinking.
Today we understand that Ohio workers injured on the job deserve to have their medical expenses covered and a portion of their wages replaced. When employers try to deny workers’ comp benefits, people know that they have the right to appeal with the help of an experienced Columbus attorney who fights for their interests in all hearings.
America is a better place in 2015. We insist on extending a helping hand to those injured in the workplace, knowing that it makes all of us stronger tomorrow.