NOIRS 2000--Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 2000, Pittsburgh, PA, October 17-19, 2000. Pittsburgh, PA: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2000 Oct; :71
The routine processing of workers’ compensation medical claims for injured workers creates a rich database of information about workplace safety. Few, if any, employers currently take advantage of the existence of these data to monitor workplace injuries. The goal of this research is to improve the welfare of employees by providing employers with explicit guidelines for using their medical claims data to monitor workplace safety and to evaluate safety programs. Workers’ compensation medical claims data for the 29,000 FTE employees of the City of Philadelphia for the years 1994-1997 supply the basic dataset for developing monitoring techniques. Using only these data, we construct weighted variables capable of rapidly capturing the number and severity of injuries. These are benchmarked to injuries in previous years and mapped over time to offer employers an ongoing surveillance window to observe changes in workplace safety. Additionally, we estimate the under-reporting of injuries that necessarily occurs when only medical claims data are used to count injuries. This is done by tracking the gap between all reported injuries and injuries receiving formal medical treatment. Because most workplace injuries result in very short courses of medical treatment, we find this system to be both feasible and reliable for monitoring workplace safety. Importantly, this novel injury surveillance system does not require any additional data collection by employers. Hence it is a low-cost, easily implemented surveillance/monitoring system that would alert employers to changes in workplace safety, allowing them to intervene early when signs of safety degradation appear. The study population for developing this system is a large municipality, but given the similarity of labor mix across municipalities, these results are immediately and directly applicable to other municipalities. In addition to other municipalities, we expect our guidelines to have direct application for many other large employers as well.