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ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONS OF THE INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT BOARD.
The administration of workmen's compensation laws is generally conceded to be most efficient in this country under the Industrial Accident Board method. Obviously, the actual work of one board may differ from that of another, according to the nature of the law to be administered and because of varying local conditions.
The Massachusetts Industrial Accident Board has been in existence since July 1, 1912, and the purpose of this chapter is to describe the present organization and functions of this body. as at present developed. Chapter 751, Acts of 1911, with the subsequent amendinents thereto, is entitled, "An Act relative to payments to employees for personal injuries received in the course of their employment, and to the prevention of such injuries." Under section 1, Part III. of this act is created the Industrial Accident Board, and under various other sections of the law are defined its duties and powers. By the title of the act the Board's administrative functions may be grouped under two general headings, as follows:
I. The payment of compensation benefits.
II. The prevention of injuries for which compensation may be claimed.
The two headings so briefly stated above are intended to cover not only the work indicated in a restricted sense, but the entire field of workmen's compensation. In order to do its full duty in connection with the compensation law the Board must, in addition to carrying on the regular routine work, be active in constructive effort for the future development of the law and for the welfare of the public to whom the law applies. For the successful operation of this broad policy there is necessary a large amount of detailed work: the collection, tabulation and analysis of a great mass of data; co-operative propaganda for contact with agencies immediately concerned with the compensation law; and, first and foremost in importance, the establishment of the principle that every person who is entitled to compensation shall receive it promptly, upon the date when it
becomes due. This means that the Board expects, in every non-fatal case, that compensation shall be in the hands of the beneficiary at the end of the third week after the injury occurs, as provided by the statute, and that the dependent of a fatally injured employee shall receive the first week's compensation from the insurer at the end of one week after death, when it becomes due, and regularly each week thereafter. Anything short of this, except in disputed cases, is regarded as inefficient service on the part of the insurer. Next in importance to the prompt payment of benefits to employees and their dependents is the policy of the Board to throw open its doors to the general public and those particularly interested in the workings of the act. Every person who desires information and advice on any question connected with the act is invited and encouraged to confer with the Board. By the practical application of this policy the members and organization keep in close touch with the compensation system, and have a first-hand knowledge and grasp of the law and of the conditions pertinent to its effective administration.
The preceding introduction explains, in a general way, the scope of the work carried on by the Industrial Accident Board. What follows is a description of the physical organization by means of which t t is administered, together with a more detailed exposition regarding the various functions as worked out in actual practice. The accompanying chart has been prepared to assist in visualizing this organization and the relation of the duties assigned thereunder.
As shown by the chart, the Board is so organized as to make its members, as a body, the controlling power, with its secretary as the instrument through which all matters of an executive and administrative nature are made effective. The members of the Board, individually, as chairmen of committees of arbitration, and the Industrial Accident Board, as the reviewing power, determine the policy of the Board in all matters concerning the hearing and decision of cases; and the Board, as the governing body, gives form and substance to the law in its interpretation of the various questions arising thereunder. Under the plan in operation the secretary, as executive officer, is responsible for the
general management of all matters of policy decided upon by the Board, has discretionary power in the conduct of office matters, and in general makes the rulings of the Board effective in connection with all questions which arise under the statute.
The next point to be considered is that which relates to the departments through which the routine and advisory work passes. Under section 18, Part III. of the act every employer is required to report all injuries received by his employees in the course of their employment, and subsequently to make supplemental reports. The report department handles this large mass of material when the report first comes into the office. Each report is corrected, numbered, indexed and filed; and when supplemental reports are received, each is attached to the proper report. In this department, also, are followed up injuries which have occurred but have not been reported within the fortyeight hours fixed by law.
The number of accident reports, alone, received at the office and handled by this department amounts to an average of approximately 325 reports per working day. In this department, also, there is maintained a central exchange by means of which all reports and attached correspondence taken from file and passed through various channels can be traced and located when needed.
In the arbitration department are handled all matters which relate directly to the payment of compensation or the refusal to pay. When an employee makes a formal claim for compensation, notice of such receipt is sent to the insurance company which covers the risk, with a request for information regarding the status of the case. Insurers are encouraged, however, to pay compensation in every case without awaiting the filing of a claim for compensation, and as a result of such encouragement this has become the general custom. When an insurance company and an employee enter into an agreement for the payment of compensation, a copy of such signed agreement is sent to this department for approval. Before passing such agreements a clerk doing this work must check up, on the basis of the accident report, the date of the injury, average wages, and whether the compensation is for total, partial or specified disability. Then,
if approved, notice of such action is sent to the insurer. In compensation cases where disability has ceased the insurance company is required to file a final settlement receipt signed by the employee. This receipt states the total amount paid and the date on which disability terminated. When the department has checked up this receipt with the terms of the agreement and the supplemental report filed by the employer, the matter is approved and the case is closed. Any closed case, however, may be reopened, should there be a recurrence of disability due to the original injury, within the statutory period of five hundred weeks from the date of the injury. The only exception is when all liability is redeemed, in unusual cases, under section 22, Part II. of the act.
The duties of the arbitration department considered up to this point deal altogether with automatic settlements. When a case is disputed, however, and the matter cannot be adjusted informally, either party in interest may request an arbitration hearing. When the department receives a request of this nature the other party concerned is notified that a hearing is to be held in the case, and is asked to name its representative for the committee of arbitration. If there is to be counsel for either side, such persons are also notified. This department then sets a date for a hearing, and keeps every one interested informed of all developments in the case. When either of the parties desires from the Board a review of the findings and decision of a committee of arbitration, a date is set for such review, and subsequently notice of the decision of the Board is sent them. If an appeal is then to be taken to the Supreme Judicial Court, this department furnishes certified copies of the record. A decree, in accordance with the findings of the Board, is issued in due course by the Superior Court, and from this decree the appealing party, by proper motion, takes the case to the highest tribunal.
The next department to be considered is that which handles the Board's statistics. This department has charge of the classification and tabulation of statistics of injuries collected from the reports. For the purpose of doing this work, which involves the use of a voluminous mass of data, the Hollerith tabu