Selecting and Evaluating Case Studies of the Economic Benefits of Research and Services at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Case Studies on Personal Dust Monitors for Coal Miners, Improved Ambulance Design, and Amputation Surveillance

by Benjamin M. Miller, David Metz, Troy D. Smith, Jesse Lastunen

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Research Question

  1. How can NIOSH best select case studies of the economic benefits of its research and services in order to prioritize its investments in workplace safety and health?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) helps ensure U.S. workers operate in safe and healthful working conditions by funding related efforts by external researchers; developing and testing engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and other technologies; and providing educational information, guidance, and training, as well as other services. NIOSH must prioritize its investments in workplace safety and health to make the best use of available funding and must also demonstrate the value of that funding. However, there are a number of challenges in understanding the benefits associated with this or any agency's research activities.

In an earlier study, RAND researchers developed an approach for estimating these benefits and demonstrated the approach using three case studies. NIOSH then asked RAND to further build upon that work by developing a process for selecting case studies for evaluation, applying that selection process to a list of ten potential case studies, and selecting three case studies from this list for detailed analysis. In this report, the authors define and document a process for selecting case studies of the economic benefits of research and services at NIOSH and evaluate benefits associated with three selected cases. Together, this body of research helps build a foundation for evaluating the broader societal benefits provided by NIOSH, both by providing quantitative estimates of the benefits associated with specific NIOSH activities and by providing NIOSH with methods and examples for consistently evaluating the societal impact of its own work.

Key Findings

One case study examines personal dust monitors for coal miners

  • Estimates for the avoided medical costs and productivity losses for cases of fatal and nonfatal respiratory disease due to the reduction in exposures to respirable coal mine dust after the adoption of continuous personal dust monitors ranged from $3.6 million to $8.0 million on an annualized basis.
  • The economic benefits based on willing-to-pay estimates associated with risk reductions in respiratory disease ranged from $10.4 million to $25.3 million per year.

One case study examines improved ambulance design

  • If ambulance redesign causes the patient compartment of ambulances to become as safe as any of the sets of assumptions modeled, this could result in an annualized benefit that ranges from $2.5 million to $8.0 million from 2017 to 2050.
  • If ambulance redesign causes the patient compartment of ambulances to become as safe as any of the sets of assumptions modeled, this could result in $24 million to $74 million in avoided "value of a statistical life" losses from 2017 to 2050.

One case study examines improved amputation surveillance

  • Under the assumption that inspections would have otherwise resulted in average outcomes, the program increased the number of violations discovered by about 96 violations per year and increased total initial penalties by approximately $47,300 per year.
  • While more data are necessary to fully quantify the benefits of surveillance programs and to establish a causal link between surveillance, inspections, and worker safety, preliminary analysis suggests that NIOSH-supported surveillance programs likely have positive benefits to society.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    The Case Study Selection Process

  • Chapter Two

    Personal Dust Monitors for Coal Miners

  • Chapter Three

    Improved Ambulance Design

  • Chapter Four

    Improved Amputation Surveillance

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Additional Detail for the Dust Monitor Case Study

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and conducted in the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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