George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This famous quote summarizes my thoughts on the workers’ compensation-related bills making their way through the Legislature (April 21).  While no policy is perfect, and periodic review is sometimes warranted, I hope our state legislators will remember the business climate in Maine in the early 1990s.

The business community at that time was experiencing the downturn in the paper industry and the loss of the textile and shoe companies that had vacated the state. I was appointed director of the Production Technology Center at the University of Southern Maine. Our mission was to help small manufacturers adapt to new technology.

When we approached owners of these companies to ask what they needed from our center, they indicated it was not new technology but help reducing their burgeoning workers’ compensation premiums. This had become a critical issue after many insurance companies left the state because of Maine’s inadequate workers’ compensation system.

We established an annual Ergonomics Conference at USM and worked with area companies and the newly established Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Co. to improve the design of the workplace to limit injuries. Over the years this has resulted in a much safer working environment.

In a paper I co-authored in 2007, we surveyed close to 100 recipients of lump sum payments from the workers’ compensation system. While many responded that the lump sum payment was not adequate, close to half the respondents had returned to work and over half felt they were fairly treated by the system.

Workers’ compensation exists to rehabilitate injured workers, not retire them for life. Based on this history, returning to the workers’ compensation system of 30 years ago will put another stumbling block into business development.

Ivan G. Most, Sc.D., P.E. (retired)

Old Orchard Beach

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