From Spindletop to the Silicon Hills, 100 Years of Workers’ Comp in Texas

We couldn’t let September slip by without acknowledging the 100th anniversary of workers’ compensation in Texas. This is an exciting time for your friends at Texas Mutual. After all, workers’ comp is all we do, and we it better than anyone else. We want to take this opportunity to highlight a few milestones in the workers’ comp system we know and love.

Pirates gave as well as they took
History regards 18th century pirates as greedy, ruthless scofflaws. Within their ranks, however, they could be quite judicious. In fact, they developed a sophisticated system for compensating injured crew members.

Loss of an eye entitled the worker to about 100 pieces of eight (Spanish dollars). Loss of a right leg was worth 500 pieces, which was 100 pieces more than loss of a left leg. Go figure.


To encourage investors, oil was allowed to flow openly at Spindletop.
Courtesy Texas Energy Museaum

Black gold
On January 10, 1901, Anthony Lucas struck oil at Spindletop near Beaumont. The ensuing boom made Texas a player in the national economy. It also presented a quandary for the Legislature.

Oil and gas jobs are among the most hazardous in the country. Texas, like other industrial states, needed a standard means of protecting workers from on-the-job injuries. The Legislature responded by creating our first workers’ compensation system in 1913.

Fixing a broken system
By the late 1980’s, the Texas workers’ compensation system was broken. Premiums were skyrocketing for employers. Furthermore, injured workers were not getting well and returning to the job at the same rate as their counterparts in other states. In an effort to fix the system, the Legislature passed two significant bills over the next 15 years.

Senate Bill 1 (“The New Law”), 1989

  • Raised benefit levels for injured workers
  • Established an administrative process for resolving disputes informally when possible
  • Set medical fee and treatment guidelines to control costs of care
  • Expanded state-administered workplace safety programs
  • Created the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission (TWCC)

House Bill 7, 2005

  • Authorized insurance carriers to establish or contract with workers’ compensation health care networks
  • Abolished the TWCC and transferred its duties to the Division of Workers’ Compensation
  • Created the Office of Injured Employee Counsel to help injured workers resolve benefit disputes with insurance carriers

This article from the summer 2005 edition of Texas Mutual’s policyholder newsletter provides a good look at HB 7.

Out of the rubble
In the spirit of saving the best for last, we withheld one important provision of S.B. 1: It created the Texas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund. Ten years later, the Legislature authorized us to operate as a domestic mutual company. Today, Texas Mutual Insurance Company is the state’s leading provider of workers’ comp insurance.

CiCi’s Pizza Franchisee Bob Westbrook is just one of 54,000 Texas employers who rely on Texas Mutual for reliable, affordable workers’ compensation coverage. In this short video, Bob explains how our dividend program boosts his bottom line.

Here’s to 100 more years
When the workers’ comp system debuted, oil and gas was king in Texas. But our economy no longer hangs its 10-gallon hat on a single product. From the tech-rich Silicon Hills of Austin to the manufacturing hub of the Valley, our diverse economy is the envy of the nation.


McFaddin Drill No. 10, Guffey & Galey, Spindletop
Courtesy Texas Energy Museum

During all of this evolution, a few things have remained constant: 1. Whether on a construction site, in an oil field or in the relatively safe confines of an office, workers get injured on the job. 2. Workers’ compensation insurance is here to help ease their financial burden and get them back on the job.

Happy anniversary to the Texas workers’ comp system. Here’s to another 100 years of protecting workers and their employers from the consequences of on-the-job injuries.

Prepare for Tomorrow’s Emergency Today

emergencyFor most of us, one day does not look much different from the next. We wake up at the same time. We take the same route to work. Maybe we take a coffee break around 10 a.m., followed by lunch at noon.

But what if something interrupts our routine? Not a traffic jam or a flat tire, mind you. Think bigger.

Fires, tornados, power outages and other emergencies can put your employees at risk and derail your business. In fact, up to 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen after an emergency, according to the American Red Cross.

Ninety-four percent of small business owners believe a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years, yet only 35 percent have comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

September is National Preparedness Month, a perfect time to prepare for tomorrow’s emergency today. Emergency preparedness plans vary by industry, but they should all address these five things:

Assigning accountability. Form a team of voluntary first responders (VFRs) that includes employees from across the company.

Evacuating. Establish mulitiple evacuation routes, and clearly mark them. And don’t forget a process for sheltering in place. Practice both processes so employees know exactly what to do during an emergency.

Treating victims. Your VFRs might have to deliver first aid while you wait for the ambulance . It is crucial that first aid kits, defibrillators and fire extinguishers be clearly marked, easy to get to and in good condition.

Reporting emergencies. If you stay calm when you call 9-1-1, your chances of getting prompt support increase. Calmly describe the emergency. Tell the operator the address where the emergency happened, and provide directions. Let the operator guide the conversation, and stay on the line until he or she tells you it is okay to hang up.

Getting back to business. Your employees’ safety should be your priority during an emergency. Afterward, work toward recovering and returning to business as soon as possible. Identifying core business functions and the employees who perform those functions is crucial.

Get more information

The federal government launched an emergency preparedness website at The site includes information on preparing your home and your business for an emergency.

Texas Mutual policyholders can also visit the safety resource center at for an online video titled, “Disaster Readiness.” The video is available in English and Spanish.

This article originally appeared in CompNews, Texas Mutual’s policyholder newsletter. Click here for the unabridged version on page three.

RTW Step 1: Put it in Writing

If you want to make something official, put it in writing.

Your birth certificate proves you exist. Your car title proves you own that shiny Mustang in the driveway. The Constitution of the United States proves you were born with certain inalienable rights.

Similarly, a written rtw process will show your employees you are serious about return-to-work.

In last week’s blog post, we explained what rtw is and why you should invest in it. This week, let’s take the first step by learning how to document the process. Start with a policy statement that:

  • Confirms your commitment to rtw
  • Explains your company’s rtw philosophy
  • Stresses the importance of safe operations, immediate medical care and returning injured employees to work

Share the policy statement with new hires, and post it on the bulletin board and other high-traffic areas as a reminder to current employees. Everyone should understand that if they get injured on the job, the company will do everything it can to help them get well and return to the team. Spell out every step in the process, from the time the injury happens to the time the employee returns to the job at full or modified duty. More on that in a future blog post.

For now, remember that rtw works best as a collaborative effort. Don’t dictate your program from the top down. Ask employees to help you develop the program and continuously improve it. If they feel a sense of ownership in rtw, they are more likely to embrace it.

Sample Policy Statement for the

Return-to-Work Process

(Company name) is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for our employees. Preventing injuries and illnesses is our primary objective.

If an employee is injured, we will use our return-to-work process to provide assistance. We will get immediate, appropriate medical attention for employees who are injured on the job, and we will attempt to create opportunities for them to return to safe, productive work as soon as medically reasonable.

Our ultimate goal is to return injured employees to their original jobs. If an injured employee is unable to perform all the tasks of the original job, we will make every effort to provide alternative productive work that meets the injured employee’s capabilities.

The support and participation of management and all employees are essential for the success of our return-to-work process.


Why You Need a Return-to-Work Program

What do you do when your employees miss work due to on-the-job injuries? Replace them and leave them to return on their own time table? If so, you’re missing valuable opportunities to control the human and monetary costs of workplace accidents.

Texas Mutual recommends that every employer commit to a return-to-work (RTW) program. RTW is a process for helping injured workers return to the team as soon as medically reasonable. Sometimes, that means providing alternative duties they can perform while they recover.

RTW is not a complex process, but it does require a modest investment of your time and resources. In future blog posts, we will show you five simple steps to making RTW an integral part of your business processes.

For now, let’s see what’s in it for you and your employees.

RTW works for employers

  • The cost of replacing experienced workers is between 50 and 150 percent of their salaries. Return-to-work programs help employers:
  • Maintain production by keeping experienced workers on the job.
  • Avoid paying overtime, finding temporary help or hiring someone new.
  • Control workers’ compensation costs.

RTW works for injured workers

Workplace injuries take a human and monetary toll on injured workers. Return-to-work programs can help them:

  • Steer clear of the stress and depression that often come with being unable to work.
  • Retain their job skills, company benefits and seniority.
  • Maintain their pre-injury income. Remember, workers’ compensation benefits pay only a portion of injured employees’ salaries.
  • Avoid the disability mindset: “I’m injured, and I cannot work.”


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