Wisconsin 101: Wisconsin Company Helps Pioneer Workplace Safety

| March 31, 2017

Wisconsin 101

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Employers Mutual was the first workers compensation insurance company in the United States. The Wausau company set new standards for workplace safety that became national models.

The company was founded in Wausau in 1911 shortly after the nation’s first workers compensation law was passed in Wisconsin.

Before the workers compensation law passed, the only way an employee injured at work could receive any compensation was to sue his or her employer for negligence. This was a costly and lengthy process that most factory workers couldn't afford to undertake. 

Besides creating a legal framework for workers compensation, the new law also promoted labor rights by extending protection to all workers. The passage of the law led to a whole new type of insurance. 

Companies like Employers Mutual were deeply invested in workplace safety and injury prevention. Reducing the number of industrial accidents would naturally lead to less money lost to claims. 

Audiometers were first developed in the 1920s to produce a set of standard tones on specific frequencies to test the limits of a person’s hearing and to check for existing hearing loss. By the mid-1950s, Employers Mutual had embraced audiometers as an indispensable tool in preventing hearing loss. Employers Mutual developed one of the first hearing-loss prevention programs. A central part of that program was testing the hearing of employees of policyholders with noisy shops and factories using audiometer

This story was produced in partnership with Wisconsin 101. 

Tags: workplace safety / Wisconsin 101 / Wisconsin history / Employers Mutual / workers compensation / hearing / audiometer / laws