The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Workers' Compensation Leaders Research Colloquium, December 11, 2014

Proceedings

by Michael Dworsky

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Research Questions

  1. How can the Center for Workers' Compensation Studies maximize the impact of its research activities?
  2. What goals should the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health pursue with workers' compensation data?

This report summarizes the proceedings of a colloquium hosted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the RAND Corporation on December 11, 2014. The goal of the colloquium was to elicit input from key stakeholders in the occupational safety and health and workers' compensation (WC) communities to help the NIOSH Center for Workers' Compensation Studies (CWCS) maximize the impact of its research activities. As a source of occupational injury and illness data in the United States, WC data offer many unique advantages. Participants also identified many limitations of WC data, including both concerns about the usefulness of WC data as a resource for surveillance and research activities and legal, contractual, and other barriers that pose additional challenges. They discussed emerging trends within WC systems and the insurance industry and broader societal changes and innovations in analytic methods and data availability. They identified areas in which CWCS could make valuable contributions and discussed suggestions for specific activities that CWCS could pursue in the short term.

Key Findings

The Center Could Contribute in a Range of Areas

  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can be a centralized resource of prevention and surveillance best practices.
  • NIOSH can help make state-level differences in workers' compensation (WC) systems comprehensible across state lines.
  • The NIOSH Center for Workers' Compensation Studies (CWCS) can conduct and support research on best practices, translation, and evaluation of microlevel interventions.
  • CWCS could invest in research on interventions in occupational health services and outcomes.
  • The primary- and disability-prevention effects of the WC system warrant NIOSH attention because creating incentives for safety is a stated goal of many WC systems.
  • Prevention effects of Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement can and should be evaluated using WC data.
  • Entities other than NIOSH might not have strong incentives to invest in foundational research on how to use WC data well.
  • CWCS can conduct surveillance with WC data that adds value and fills gaps left by other existing injury surveillance and research data systems.

The Institute Can Make Better Use of Workers' Compensation Data

  • NIOSH is the only source of federal research funding for primary prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. Because its resources are limited, some say that it should direct them toward primary prevention.
  • Others argue that secondary and tertiary prevention warrants more attention and investment from NIOSH because it should invest resources where they can most effectively reduce the total burden of workplace injury and illness.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Background on Workers' Compensation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Center for Workers' Compensation Studies

  • Chapter Two

    What Are Workers' Compensation Data Sources, and How Does the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Currently Use Them?

  • Chapter Three

    What Are the Strengths and Limitations of Workers' Compensation Data?

  • Chapter Four

    What Changes Are Relevant?

  • Chapter Five

    Implications for the Center for Workers' Compensation Studies

  • Appendix A

    List of Colloquium Attendees

  • Appendix B

    Colloquium Agenda

This report was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and produced by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace, a part of the Safety and Justice Program.

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