Systematic Reviews for Occupational Safety and Health Questions

Resources for Evidence Synthesis

by Susanne Hempel, Lea Xenakis, Marjorie Danz

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Research Question

  1. What evidence synthesis resources exist to facilitate conducting systematic reviews for occupational safety and health questions?

This report introduces systematic reviews of the literature as a research methodology to summarize the existing evidence with a transparent, reliable, and valid approach. It covers the systematic review steps: (1) define the question, (2) create a protocol, (3) conduct a literature search and screen for inclusion, (4) document and assess included studies, and (5) evaluate and interpret the body of evidence. The report also provides resources for drawing conclusions and developing recommendations based on the systematic review. We performed a literature review and consulted with producers and consumers of systematic reviews over the course of the project to identify available resources. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) staff provided a draft systematic review framework and continuous input to ensure relevance and applicability to occupational safety and health questions. The report draws on key general existing guidance for systematic reviews as well as identified resources specific to occupational safety and health evidence synthesis. Occupational safety and health is an extensive multidisciplinary field and encompasses a broad spectrum of issues that affect the health and safety of individuals in the workplace. Standard systematic review tools and methods may need to be adapted to fit the unique requirements of evidence synthesis for occupational safety and health questions. The report provides practical guidance to execute a systematic review as well as considerations specific to evidence synthesis for occupational safety and health questions.

Key Findings

  • A large number of resources exist to conduct systematic reviews. This report provides references and online links to pertinent evidence synthesis resources, organized by key systematic review steps. The resources support systematic reviews as a research methodology to summarize the existing evidence with a transparent, reliable, and valid approach.
  • Guidance specific to systematic reviews for occupational safety and health questions is still fragmented. Occupational safety and health encompasses a broad spectrum of issues that affect the health and safety of individuals in the workplace. Systematic reviews in occupational safety and health may draw on resources from a variety of disciplines, in particular health care, and adapt tools and methods to fit the unique requirements of evidence synthesis in occupational safety and health.

Recommendations

  • Systematic reviews in occupational safety and health should follow the general steps of a systematic review: (1) define the question, (2) create a protocol, (3) conduct a literature search and screen for inclusion, (4) document and assess included studies, and (5) evaluate and interpret the body of evidence. Standard systematic review tools and methods may need to be adapted to fit the unique requirements of evidence synthesis for occupational safety and health questions.
  • Systematic review is an evolving research methodology, and guidance needs to be reviewed periodically as methodological practices are refined and new pertinent strategies are identified to improve evidence synthesis for occupational safety and health questions.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Report Methods

  • Chapter Two

    Systematic Review Step 1: Define the Question

  • Chapter Three

    Systematic Review Step 2: Create a Protocol

  • Chapter Four

    Systematic Review Step 3: Conduct a Literature Search and Screen for Inclusion

  • Chapter Five

    Systematic Review Step 4: Document and Assess Included Studies

  • Chapter Six

    Systematic Review Step 5: Evaluate and Interpret the Body of Evidence

  • Chapter Seven

    Draw Conclusions and Develop Recommendations

  • Chapter Eight

    Discussion and Outlook

The research reported here was prepared for the commissioned by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and conducted by the Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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