Safety and Workers Compensation in Virginia

Coal mining may be perceived as the most dangerous job in Virginia, and "black lung" is a debilitating disease, but every workplace has risks. The largest percentage of workers' compensation claims in Virginia come from the "retail trade" sector - lifting boxes of canned soup to restock the grocery shelf can cause excess strain to the lower back...

The risks are reduced through safety measures, but inevitably some people are injured on the job. The injured employees can receive workers compensation, an economic mitigation of the impact of a short-term or permanent injury. Industries with a high accident rate pay a higher premium for this mandatory form of insurance.

Title 65.2 of the Code of Virginia defines the law associated with workers compensation. The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission (formerly the Industrial Commission of Virginia) consists of three people, appointed by the General Assembly for 6-year terms. One is defined as a worker's representative, while another is defined as the employer's representative. Approximately 20 deputy commissioners are responsible for holding hearings and gathering evidence to deal with claims and appeals.

The Virginia General Assembly passed its first workers compensation law in 1919. Virginia firms employing three or more people in Virginia are required to provide compensation for work-related injuries, and about 98% of all employees in the state are covered. Nearly all firms purchase liability insurance to pay claims, and thus reduce their risk of a catastrophic expense that would bankrupt the company.

In 2001, over 45,000 incidents (plus another 150,000 or so "minor" cases) were reported to the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. About 25,000 workers were awarded compensation, 96% for accidents and 4% for occupational diseases. Average weekly wages were $534, and average compensation was $260 per week, so the injured employees received roughly 50% of their pay while off the job.1



1. Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission, Statistical Report, 2001
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