Administering Idaho's Workers' Compensation Law

Idaho's Workers' Compensation Centennial


March 16, 2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Idaho Workers’ Compensation Act being signed into law in the State of Idaho. Idaho was the 38th state or territory to create legislation for workers’ compensation. The Act brought with it the "Grand Bargain" between employers and labor to utilize workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries. Now 100 years later, the workers’ compensation system created that day continues to serve the state of Idaho.

Until the enactment of the legislation on March 16th, workers' compensation in the United States was still in its infancy. The first permanent state laws were enacted by Washington and Kansas on March 14, 1911. The first laws to become effective were created by Wisconsin on May 3, 1911. After that passage compensation legislation began to progress rapidly with 38 States and 3 Territories creating laws between 1911 and 1918.
The first legislation in the United States providing for stated benefits payable without suit or proof of negligence was the co-operative insurance law of Maryland. This act was of restricted application, included only mining, quarrying, railways and municipal construction work, and was to be administered by the State Insurance Commission. The law was declared unconstitutional, however, as depriving parties of the right of trial by jury and conferring on an executive, judicial or at least quasi-judicial functions.

The federal government enacted a limited compensation law in 1908, but applicable only to certain hazardous employments.

The Idaho Workmen's Compensation Act, passed by the fourteenth session of the Legislature of the State of Idaho, created the Industrial Accident Board. This board consisted of three members appointed by Governor Moses Alexander, with the approval of the Senate, and who were to assume their duties on the first day of January, 1918.

Above: Governor Moses Alexander signs legislation in his office.

On January 1, 1918, the original appointees of the board took up their duties as commissioners. George H. Fisher of Bancroft, appointed for one year; E.F. Canton of Boise, appointed for three years; H.H. Barnes of Wallace, appointed for five years. George H. Fisher was voted as the original chairman. The Offices of the Board were located in rooms 432-438 of the state capitol building in Boise. All sessions were open to the public and were held in the Boards offices, with the exceptions being hearings

Right: Chairman George H. Fisher


Shortly after beginning operations, the work of the department was divided among the three commissioners:

  • Chairman Fisher was responsible for statistics, awards and inspection;
  • Commissioner Barnes oversaw the claims department;
  • Commissioner Canton managed correspondence and information printing.

Commissioner Barnes died at the Sacred Heart Hospital in the city of Spokane, Washington on July 6, 1918, as a result of typhoid fever. The personnel of the Board changed July 15, when Mr. W.H. Casado was appointed by Governor Alexander as Commissioner to fill the vacancy.

Now 100 years later, it continues to be an honor for everyone at the Idaho Industrial Commission to ensure the "Grand Bargain" continues to be upheld. Thank you to everyone who has helped make the last 100 years possible.