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Deadly workplace accidents: an historic look

Over the last century, workers have been increasingly protected by laws with regard to rights and safety. Today, workers have a high expectation of safety. Even in dangerous industries, employers have to work with employees to ensure safety measures are enacted, and workers who are hurt on the job have legal options for seeking compensation and coverage of expenses.

Even today, serious injuries can occur in the workplace. While catastrophic accidents do still occur from time to time, though, they are not as frequent or generally as large as incidents of the past. For example, one of the worst workplace accidents in history occurred in a mill in another state. The entire factory collapsed, injuring 166 people and killing 145. The incident occurred in 1860.

A mine in a western state saw a black powder explosion in 1900 that took the lives of 200 people, and in 1902 a mine in a different state experienced an explosion that killed 184 people, including young boys working in the mine.

Some of the worst workplace environments are associated with some of the most notable buildings and structures in the nation. The building of the Hoover Dam, for example, resulted in the death of as many as 96 workers over five years of the project. A lot of the deaths were related to carbon monoxide issues in the tunnels workers built to divert water.

Throughout the years, accidents became less catastrophic with regard to the number of people killed or injured in each incident, due in part to better safety regulations. Even so, more recent accidents have taken many lives. In 1989, and explosion near a shipping channel in the south injured 314 and killed 23.

Understanding your right to safety in the workplace -- and your options for compensation and coverage if safety fails -- ensures you are protected financially if something tragic does happen. If you are involved in a workplace accident of any size -- even if you are the only person injured -- you might have a right to compensation under workers' compensation.

Source: American Experience, PBS, "Timeline: Deadliest Workplace Accidents," accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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