Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894. While today most Americans would say it simply signifies the end of summer, in fact, the holiday was originally designed to honor the American workforce. Labor Day pays tribute to the inhumane physical conditions that our ancestors endured and their struggles to enact laws that today protect us from injury, illness, and even overwork.
Why do we have Labor Day? What laws are there to protect us from the abuses experienced by American laborers during the industrial revolution? How can employers enact rules and support systems to help their workforce stay healthier and how can employees help themselves?
What Is Labor Day?
Labor Day is a celebration of the American workforce. Working has always held dangers, but today’s modern desk job is nothing like the workplace conditions in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was the heyday of the American industrial revolution, and most men, some women, and even children as young as five or six, worked in factories, mills, and mines around the country. It was a time of great change for a country adjusting to electricity, the cotton gin, and the transcontinental railroad. However, for the American worker, the conditions were highly challenging, not to mention quite dangerous.
The working conditions these workers endured have been described as “crowded and unclean.” The factories they worked in displayed a lack of safety codes, and long hours “were the norm.” These employees typically worked 12-hour days seven-days a week for a few dollars. This was particularly true for immigrants, who often fled difficult conditions in their homeland, only to be confronted with appalling work conditions here in the United States.
During this period, manufacturing became a primary industry, employing more workers and moving them away from agricultural pursuits. As workers became disenchanted at the abusive conditions, they began to organize in unions and even riot. For example, the Haymarket Riot of 1886 would cause several deaths. Around the same time, the nation’s first Labor Day parade happened in New York City.
The idea of Labor Day as a working person’s holiday caught on about 12 years later, in 1894. By 1908, the first workers’ compensation system was put into law. Since then, several laws and regulations have gone into place to back up the idea that the American labor force is the backbone of this country and, as such, deserves to have their health protected when they’re on the job.
What Are the Different Types of Labor Laws?
Despite our best efforts to protect the American worker, the United States Bureau of Labor consistently reports around 2.9 million non-fatal workplace injuries each year. Workers injured on the job are covered under federal workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance can provide a source of income for employees suffering an on-the-job injury. It can also pay for an injured worker’s medical expenses and rehabilitation.
Other types of labor laws that have evolved (and continue to evolve) from the first instance of recognizing Labor Day include:
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take an extended leave of absence from work due to illness, caring for a sick family member, childbirth or adoption, or emergencies related to military services.
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that governs a federally required minimum wage, overtime pay, and misclassification of employee status.
There are many federal agencies that are designed to help employers and their workforce remedy workplace safety issues. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) closely administers workplace safety. There is an organization for miners called the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governs aviation accidents and injuries. There are even federal labor laws designed to protect specific types of workers, such as longshore and harbor star or nuclear weapons workers.
On top of all these federal regulations and agencies, there are also state labor laws governing employment. These laws vary by state.
These and other labor laws in the years since 1894 have been designed primarily to protect the American workforce. Many of these rules also protect employers by creating more humane working conditions that make it easier to attract a better caliber of workforce. However, workers are still injured and even killed all too frequently on the job.
How can your labor force use the lessons learned from Labor Day and create a better environment for physical health on the job?
How Can You Recognize Labor Day by Focusing on Employee Health?
If Labor Day is about celebrating the American workforce, we should note that work is often performed at the expense of physical health. Americans have chronic back and neck issues, along with repetitive motion disorders that negatively affect their overall health. That is often because they ignore how their bodies feel in the workplace and sometimes even work through the pain—until they can’t anymore. It’s common for healthcare providers to hear that their patients have been enduring pain for months before they finally take the time to seek out help.
Physical therapists recommend the following three important steps for workers to follow to help alleviate some of the chronic conditions caused from orthopedic ailments:
- Get up. Those who work sedentary jobs should get up and move around every 30 or 60 minutes. It can be beneficial to take a short walk or try a few squats or a pushup or two if they are working at home. The human body functions more effectively with fewer aches and pains when it can avoid sitting for long periods.
- Move intentionally. Many jobs require lifting, bending, and squatting. Workers should be trained to deliberately slow their efforts and focus on how they conduct these movements. Some examples include tightening the abdomen muscles to help protect the lower back when bending, or carrying boxes close to the trunk to reduce strain on the spine.
- Practice better posture. Workers’ desks should be set up to maximize posture and reduce strain on the neck, back, and shoulders. Their backs should be straight against their chair with both feet on the ground.
While these tips will help primarily with long-term wear and tear, accidents can still occur despite an employee’s best efforts to slow down and take better care of themself. That’s where employers can come in to help maintain the orthopedic health of their workers, through a new type of telemedicine practice called Remote Injury Care.
How Can You Protect Your Laborers With Remote Injury Care?
Federal and state rules to protect your workforce can’t help you respond to an injury when it happens in your workplace. Aggressively managing these incidents has a direct correlation on the cost of labor and operational overhead in your business. Unfortunately, that cost is high; companies in the United States lose $170.8 billion annually on workplace injuries. How can we change these numbers?
The answer clearly does not lie with more federal or state regulation. Historically, these laws have done a nice job of protecting employees. However, it’s time for a new and revolutionary healthcare model that also cuts the exorbitant costs of workplace injuries for employers.
Designed to benefit both the labor force and the business, OrthoLive’s Remote Injury Care provides immediate triage and treatment from an orthopedic expert through the use of our HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing solution. Our telemedicine application can dial up a clinician from your cell phone, tablet, or other connected device. This service is available 24/7/365 and can provide your employees with the care they need—potentially without a time-consuming, costly, and unnecessary trip to the ER.
The benefits of OrthoLive Remote Injury Care include:
- Immediate medical triage on-site when and where the injury occurs
- Avoiding unnecessary ER visits
- Efficient case management and rehabilitation
- Improved worker satisfaction
- Increased productivity
- Decreased OSHA reportable events
- Lowered workers’ compensation costs
Give your workforce the care they deserve with OrthoLive’s Remote Injury Care telemedicine application. Businesses just like yours have cut their workers’ compensation claims by 75 percent or more.
Contact us today for a demo and truly celebrate your labor force by giving them the care they need when they are injured on the job.
We’re looking for guest bloggers. Find out how you can be featured by clicking here.