Evidence and decision making in occupational safety and health (OSH)
Nov 23, 2022
This study aimed to explore and identify globally: (i) what types of evidence are produced, shared and used, and by whom, and (ii) how OSH decisions are informed and the role evidence plays in this process. Using data from a rapid evidence assessment and stakeholder engagement activities, two conceptual models were developed. One mapped different actors and agencies and the other highlighted processes at an operational and systems level.
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Occupational accidents, illnesses and fatalities are prevalent globally. Whilst the past decade has seen work-related accident and fatality rates plateau in many high-income countries, safety outcomes and disparities within and between countries remain prominent issues. Enhancing working conditions and making workplaces safer is necessary to decrease the number of fatalities, injuries and cases of occupational diseases, and to promote and safeguard psychological welfare.
Using evidence in occupational safety and health (OSH) decision making may help reduce rates of occupational incidents and diseases. However, the role evidence currently plays within OSH is unclear. Therefore, we developed a study to explore the role of evidence in OSH decision making, which considered what evidence is produced, shared and used, and by whom.
To answer the four research questions that guided the study, we conducted a rapid evidence assessment and stakeholder engagement activities (including secondary analysis of existing interview data, an online survey and primary interviews). Using this data we developed two conceptual models: one mapped the different actors and agencies involved in OSH decision making (structural model), and the other highlighted the processes involved in OSH and the role of evidence at an operational and systems level (process model).
Our findings highlighted that no single definition of 'evidence' existed in the OSH space. The literature and stakeholders we consulted drew upon various information and research sources for decision making.
The OSH evidence ecosystem contains multiple actors interacting in what we describe as the lifecycle of evidence, which refers to the production, synthesis, sharing and use of evidence at an operational and systems level. These include:
Evidence used for decision making is used at both a local level and a systems level. Factors that influence decisions and evidence-use in decision making include: the legal basis and regulations, the business case (e.g. finances, staffing), culture and finally, evidence (e.g. existence, accessibility and relevance). In addition, an organisation's size can also impact these factors (i.e. larger companies are likely to have greater resources and more specialist staff than smaller companies), as can the country (affecting regulations, expectations and culture).
Discussion and recommendations
The research described in this report was sponsored by the Lloyd's Register Foundation and conducted by RAND Europe.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.
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