Steven J. Wurzelbacher, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Alysha R. Meyers, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Chih-Yu Tseng, MS, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Libby L. Moore, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Brian Chin, MS, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Nhut Nguyen, MPH, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Edward F. Krieg, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
The mission of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS) is to maximize the use of workers’ compensation (WC) claims data and systems to improve workplace safety and health through partnerships.
Workers’ compensation (WC) systems are state-governed systems that were established in the early 1900s in the US to provide medical care and partial income protection to employees who are injured or become ill from their job. These systems also provide employers incentives to reduce work-related injury and illness. A majority of employers buy WC insurance coverage through private insurers or state-certified compensation insurance funds. Larger employers may also have the option to self-insure. In 2013, NIOSH established the CWCS to integrate NIOSH’s traditional research efforts aimed at preventing worker injury and illness with WC efforts aimed at providing medical care and wage benefits to workers with a work-connected injury or illness.
This poster presentation will describe recent and ongoing CWCS surveillance and research studies to achieve several key goals (see https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workercomp/cwcs/publications.html).
The first goal is to use state-level WC claims data for occupational injury and illness surveillance. Recent studies demonstrated that large state datasets of WC claims can be successfully linked to state employment data to examine claim counts and rates by industry and cause of injury. CWCS partnered with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC) to publish several WC claim studies, text mining approaches, and data visualization dashboards to explore ~2 million claims to identify industries for ergonomic and safety intervention. NIOSH provided extramural funding to four other states (CA, MA, TN, and MI) and consultation to several other states to perform similar work. The second goal is to conduct prevention effectiveness studies to identify what works to prevent injury. CWCS has led a series of studies with the OHBWC to review the effectiveness of their sponsored safety grant, employer wellness program, and onsite consultation services. A recent RAND report on the value of NIOSH identified the WC program intervention research as having significant impact as other states have begun sponsoring similar programs due to their demonstrated effectiveness. Another goal is to leverage insurer-collected employer risk data to understand workplace exposure trends. CWCS just published three studies to determine how industrial hygiene data that insurers collect can be standardized and shared with public health researchers. A final goal is to improve injured worker treatment and recovery. The CWCS is now sponsoring and conducting a series of health services studies to reduce opioid use disorders and examine the impact of treatments to reduce work-related disability.
As with other data sources, there are several limitations associated with the use of WC claims data for occupational safety and health surveillance. This includes underreporting, which differs by industry, especially for illnesses. CWCS and partners have demonstrated that state-level WC claims data can be used to augment other surveillance systems (such as the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) to understand injury trends by cause and industry. The CWCS and other researchers are successfully using WC insurer systems to identify evidence based prevention programs, assess exposure trends, and conduct health services research.
Workers’ compensation (WC) systems can be useful for improving workplace safety and health. CWCS will continue to work partners to tap the potential of these systems to prevent injury and improve injured worker care.