In 1919, the 16th North Dakota Legislative Assembly created the Workmen’s Compensation Bureau. Its purpose was to provide “sure and certain relief regardless of questions of fault to the exclusion of every other remedy, proceeding or compensation.” The intent of the law was to provide relief to workers injured while on the job. This relief would be in the form of compensation for lost earnings and payment of medical bills incurred. It was anticipated that the law would help employers by eliminating the risk of damaging lawsuits by injured employees.
Today North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) remains an exclusive, employer financed, no-fault insurance state fund covering workplace injuries, illnesses, and death. In North Dakota, WSI is the sole provider and administrator of the workers’ compensation system. North Dakota is one of four “exclusive” state funds in the country (the other three are Ohio, Washington, and Wyoming). This means that all employers, except those authorized to self-insure, must purchase workers’ compensation insurance from the state fund, rather than from private insurance companies. In the other 46 states and the District of Columbia, employers have the option to either buy workers’ compensation insurance from private insurance companies and competitive state funds or to self-insure.
In November 2008, voters in North Dakota returned control of WSI back to the Governor, who now appoints the agency’s Executive Director, while leaving the Board as quasi-advisory.