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Activities: NIOSH Research Projects

Descriptions of the economics research projects that NIOSH supported in FY2011 are presented below. For a list of projects underway that are predominantly focused on economics and how they link to the goals of the Economics Program see the interactive list of goals.

NIOSH Research Projects
Analysis of Medical Cost Records from MarketScan Databases

The primary objective of this project is to examine whether workers with Workers’ Compensation claims also had elevated health care utilization costs associated with the same injury or illness event that appear in the medical insurance and disability compensation systems. The project also investigates whether work-related injuries or illnesses have consequences for employment status and associated cost implications. All medical and indemnity costs due to workplace injuries and illnesses are supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation. However, it is thought that in many cases part of the medical costs are shifted to group health insurance. This project examines if there is any such shifting of costs.

Project Contact: Anasua Bhattacharya
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2010-2011

The Burden of Injuries and Illnesses in Manufacturing

The hypothesis of this study is that the number of occupational fatalities, injuries, and illnesses for the past five years in the manufacturing sector follow a proportionate downward trend while the direct and indirect costs associated with these occupational fatalities, injuries, and illnesses have risen disproportionately. Understanding the contributing factors behind these trends might assist in understanding future trends. Another goal of this project is to examine how expenditures not spent on addressing fewer occupational fatalities, injuries, and illnesses will affect the national output and employment if returned to the economy.

Project Contact: Tapas Ray
Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART)
(513) 533-8462
Project Period: 2010-2014

Costs of Injuries/Illnesses in Wholesale and Retail Trade

The primary objective of this project is to estimate the direct and indirect costs of injuries and illnesses related to the NORA Wholesale and Retail Trade (WRT) sector. Workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities are one of the largest problems faced by the employees and employers. A portion of the cost related to these problems are shared by the employers, however in some cases all most of the costs are shifted to the injured and their family members. The project has obtained injury, fatality and Workers Compensation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Council on Compensation Insurance and Washington Group International to estimate the direct and indirect costs related to workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities in WRT. The procedures exercised in this project are based on Leigh et al.’s Costs of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (2003). Modifications will be made to incorporate more current literature on epidemiological studies and costs of injuries and illnesses.

Project Contact: Anasua Bhattacharya
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2008-2011

Economic Burden of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses in Small Businesses

The primary mission of this project is to examine whether workers with Workers’ Compensation claims also had elevated health care utilization costs associated with the same injury or illness event that appear in the medical insurance and disability compensation systems. The project also investigates whether work-related injuries or illnesses have consequences for employment status and have associated cost implications. All medical and indemnity costs due workplace injuries and illnesses are supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation. However, it is thought that in many cases a portion of the medical costs are shifted to group health insurance coverage. This project examines if there is any such shifting of costs.

Project Contact: Anasua Bhattacharya
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2009-2012

Sector-Based Case Studies on Cost-Effective Interventions

To respond to the need for complete and high quality cost-effectiveness studies and continuing to work with a standardized draft template, we will develop four new case studies, two in Oil and Gas and two in Public Safety. We will partner with Sectors to obtain input and finalize the draft template and to gain access to interested employer stakeholders to identify implemented or ongoing interventions. We will collaborate with these stakeholders in order to obtain needed information and expert opinion. Stakeholder concurrence will also be important for including default published values for missing information. In addition to the employer's perspective, a short discussion of the societal perspective, that includes all costs and all benefits regardless of who incurs them, will be included in each case study in order to articulate who would bear which costs and who would enjoy which benefits. Prevention through Design (PtD) elements will be highlighted if appropriate and considered in a broad manner as including the design of work premises, structures, tools, plants, equipment, machinery, substances, work methods, and systems of work.

Project Contact: Abay Getahun
Office of the Director (OD)
(202) 245-0625
Project Period: 2010-2012

Effects of Safety Training at Washington Group International

The primary mission of this project is to transfer the information of how safety training can affect the safety culture in an organization and reduce the firm’s costs on Workers’ Compensation premiums and workplace injuries requiring time away from work. The problem lies in providing adequate health and safety training to reduce injuries and fatalities in workplaces. There are few firms that provide such health and safety trainings to their employees; Washington Group International (WGI) is one such firm. WGI is trying to get all their supervisors to be Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) certified. According to WGI, this training has effectively reduced the injuries and fatalities and also reduced the Workers’ Compensation premium, making it financially beneficial to the company. We are trying to test the hypothesis whether this STS certification process has been truly beneficial to WGI.

Project Contact: Anasua Bhattacharya
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2008-2011

Evaluating the Effectiveness of OSH Program Elements

This project will produce a Workers’ Compensation injury/illness trend analysis that can be used by Wholesale and Retail Trade companies as benchmarking information to assess costs of work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and slips, trips, and falls (STFs) and anticipate potential risks. This project will then provide a comprehensive study of a variety of occupational safety and health (OSH) interventions being used in the WRT sector to assess potential savings related to reducing incidence and severity of work related MSDs/STFs. Finally, this study will identify crucial OSH program elements and practices with particularly high effectiveness and return on investment and provide WRT companies with an evidence-based OSH program evaluation tool to develop and improve safety management systems.

Project Contact: Steven Wurzelbacher
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS)
(513) 841-4428
Project Period: 2011-2014

Increasing Adoption of CROPS by Farmers and Manufacturers

This project will identify barriers to ROPS installation and approaches for encouraging farmers to retrofit their tractors with Cost-Effective Roll-Over Protection Structures (CROPS) using stakeholder input. With the assistance of partners, the initial phase of the project will identify the study population — farmers in two selected states who use tractors for which a CROPS prototype has been developed and tested by NIOSH. New York and Virginia were selected because of their high number of tractor roll-over fatalities and well established working relationships between NIOSH, its partners, and the States’ farm population. The research findings will be incorporated into social marketing strategies developed through the National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative. However, barriers identified may point to other strategies for effective transfer of technology, such as design modification, that can be disseminated and explored in future efforts. Finally, this project will serve as a pilot to determine if using multiple approaches is an effective model for identifying barriers to adoption. If so, this model could be applied to engineering controls and other occupational safety and health interventions in future research efforts to improve technology transfer.

Project Contact: David Hard
Division of Safety Research (DSR)
(304) 285-5894
Project Period: 2008-2011

Adapting Order-Picking Technologies for Risk Assessment in a Retail Distribution Center

The specific aims of this project are: 1) to study the health, safety, and performance-related effects of a voice-directed manual order-picking operation; 2) to explore a new method for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting production and performance data recorded by the order-picking software systems, and 3) to determine whether the method and data are useful for identifying appropriate solutions for eliminating or minimizing those risks.

Project Contact: Oliver Wirth
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2010-2014

Authoritative Recommendations on Managing Workplace EMF

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) from AC electric power have become widespread in U.S. workplaces at the same time some epidemiologic studies report associations with cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and other serious health effects. Since these findings have yet to be confirmed by animal or cellular studies, NIEHS classified power-frequency EMF as a Possible Human Carcinogen (category 2B). In addition to the possible cancer risks, very high exposures to power-frequency EMF in a few utility and manufacturing occupations can cause acute neurological effects. These acute EMF injuries are the basis for exposure guidelines published by ACGIH and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The potential disease burden from occupational EMF is substantial. A previous NIOSH risk assessment used Department of Energy surveillance data on power-frequency magnetic fields to estimate their possible cancer burden in U.S. workers. To reduce the cancers attributable to occupational EMF, this study will develop, disseminate and evaluate authoritative recommendations to guide employers, workers, and occupational health professionals in managing workplace EMF.

Project Contact: Joseph Bowman
Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART)
(513) 533-8462
Project Period: 2010-2013

"Best Practices" Patient Lifting Intervention in a Hospital

The purpose is to conduct intervention trials of “best practices” safe patient handling and movement programs in two acute care hospitals. The “best practices” program consists of: (1) state-of-the-art patient lifts (ceiling-mounted and portable lifts) and repositioning equipment to assist with patient transfers; (2) a safe-lifting policy or protocol that describes the roles and responsibilities of all affected staff; (3) training on how to use the patient lifting and repositioning equipment; and (4) training to change the culture of patient lifting and promote compliance with the program. The null hypothesis will be that there is no change in case injury rates between the pre- and post-intervention time periods in study hospitals. Case injury rates in study hospitals will be compared to two reference groups. The null hypothesis to be tested will be that the rate of decline seen in case injuries of the target population (nursing staff in study hospitals) will not differ from the rate of decline seen in the reference groups. The decline in patient-handling injury rates in the study hospitals will be compared with national injury rates to ensure that the rate of decline in the study hospitals is greater than the rate of decline in national musculoskeletal injury rates.

Project Contact: James Collins
Division of Safety Research (DSR)
(304) 285-5894
Project Period: 2007-2011

Community Partners for Healthy Farming Intervention Research

The purpose of the Community Partners program is to utilize coalitions to implement and evaluate existing or new community-based interventions for reducing agriculturally-related injuries, hazards, and illnesses and to disseminate them. Objectives include: a) continue to develop and maintain active partnerships between experienced researchers, communities, workers, managers, agricultural organizations, agribusinesses, media, and other stakeholders; b) develop and implement specific interventions; c) identify potential strengths and barriers to adoption and sustainability; d) evaluate interventions, including production of useful products and impact; and e) disseminate findings and products to professionals, agricultural workers, and those who work with this population.

Project Contact: Janet Ehlers
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS)
(513) 841-4428
Project Period: 2007-2011

Effectiveness Evaluations of the NIOSH Roof Bracket Assembly

This study’s long-term objective is to collaborate with a manufacturer to produce, and a distributor to market, the adjustable assembly so it will be commercially available to residential, commercial, and industrial construction contractors, and to worker training settings such as trade and vocational-tech schools. The hypothesis to be tested during a field evaluation study is that using the NIOSH-developed bracket-rail assembly (as opposed to using just a slide guard setup) will result in a safer work environment for roof workers in residential construction by providing easy-to-install fall-protection equipment. Using the bracket assembly will reduce falls from elevation and improve worker postures resulting in a safer workplace during roofing and other construction work activities.

Project Contact: Thomas Bobick
Division of Safety Research (DSR)
(304) 285-5894
Project Period: 2009-2011

Hazard Recognition: Preventing Falls and Close Calls

The purpose of this project is to evaluate two hazard recognition training interventions to prevent falls and close calls in construction. Investigate the situations, hazards, and other precursors for falls and close calls in construction. Develop a taxonomy of the most common or frequent precursors to increased risks for falls and close calls in construction. Identify the barriers to reporting and correcting these risky situations. Connect these observations to the complex inter-relationships of productivity, workload, safe work practices, and risks for injury in hazardous work environments. Recommend crew-based organizational changes to promote communication about, and rapid mitigation of such workplace hazards.

Project Contact: Ted Scharf
Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART)
(513) 533-8462
Project Period: 2007-2011

Industry Health Surveillance with Group Medical Claims

The potential role of workplace factors in development of various health conditions is often not recognized, and it is often difficult for workers and physicians to identify and confirm occupational sources of disease. As a result, epidemiological studies and population surveys typically yield far higher estimates of the rates of specific occupational diseases than are observed in Workers’ Compensation claims or occupational health surveillance systems that collect individual case reports from employers and health care providers. This project will help to address the problem of under-recognition and reporting of occupational illness by creating a model for a new form of occupational health surveillance based on group medical insurance claims. Working with two major health insurers, claims data will be used to estimate disease prevalence rates by detailed industry, thus making visible the possible industry location and potential magnitude of occupational health problems. Results will be put to practical use by the health insurers who will employ their existing relationships with employers to help identify and promote prevention of occupational disease, as well as to help employers set health improvement goals more broadly. Prevention promotion will be based on reports of the calculated disease rates, the costs of excess industry cases of disease, and recommendations for risk factor assessment and prevention developed or identified by NIOSH. Industry disease rate results will also be used by NIOSH to help set priorities for prevention and further epidemiological study.

Project Contact: Tim Bushnell
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS)
(513) 841-4428
Project Period: 2005-2011

Management and Economic Components of Prevention through Design

By identifying promising design solutions and encouraging the use of PtD at the worksite within Construction, Manufacturing, and Healthcare, this project addresses the NIOSH broad strategic goals of reducing the incidence and severity of work-related illnesses and injuries in those sectors. Objective 1 is to determine the level of adoption of PtD concepts among a subset of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. through a survey conducted by ORC Worldwide. Objective 2 is to investigate how promising NIOSH-developed control technologies (engineering design solutions) can be transferred from research into practice. To investigate the economic underpinnings of these technologies, the barriers and motivators for their adoption, and will develop diffusion strategies for those engineering design solutions where the greatest opportunities exist.

Project Contact: Elyce Biddle
Division of Safety Research (DSR)
(304) 285-5894
Project Period: 2008-2011

Preventing Contact Injuries to Oil and Gas Extraction Workers

This project supports NIOSH strategic goals by evaluating the use of automated technologies for land- based drilling rigs that reduce direct equipment/worker contact. The specific aims of this project are to:

  1. Identify the most common equipment and tasks associated with contact injuries, and the associated technologies;
  2. Document current barriers and possible incentives to automated technologies implementation; and
  3. Create, distribute, and evaluate an assessment of types of automated technologies used on US land-based drilling rigs.

Project Contact: Ryan Hill
Alaska Pacific Regional Office (APRO)
(907) 271-2382
Project Period: 2009-2012

Safety Intervention Evaluation in a Helicopter Plant

NIOSH’s role in this project is to address objectives 1 and 3 and the firm’s role is to complete objective 2, and both NIOSH and the firm will collaborate in addressing objective 4.

  • Objective 1: Rank job-task groups at the helicopter manufacturing plant with respect to their rate of documented traumatic injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and their rate of symptoms of musculoskeletal (MS) pain reported by the employees in a company survey.
  • Objective 2: Develop and implement a safety program of interventions to prevent traumatic and MSD injuries.
  • Objective 3: Evaluate the effectiveness of firm’s safety intervention program to reduce injuries.
  • Objective 4: Develop and disseminate guidelines related to the effectiveness of this safety program to other aircraft companies and industries.

Project Contact: Harlan Amandus
Division of Safety Research (DSR)
(304) 285-5894
Project Period: 2009-2012

Work Hours Risk Assessment and Methods Development

The goal of this project is to better understand the role of work hours in occupational safety and health. For many classic workplace hazards, risks are assessed through formal risk assessment and evaluation approaches. The purpose of this project is to develop methods that can be used to conduct formal risk evaluation of the factor of work hours and occupational safety and health outcomes associated with this hazard. This project has six specific aims. Aim 1: Determine the utility of the “Health and Safety Outcomes Related to Health in Nurses” study for use in developing methods for risk evaluation of work hours-occupational safety and health relationships. Aim 2: Develop methods for representing the hazard of work hours. Aim 3: Compare developed methods with standard methods of representing the hazard of work hours. Aim 4: Develop methods for formal risk evaluation of work hours-occupational safety and health outcome relationships. Aim 5: Carry out formal risk evaluation of work hours. Aim 6: Analyze the economic implications of occupational illness and injury associated with the risk factor of work hours.

Project Contact: Sudha Pandalai
Education and Information Division (EID)
(513) 533-8302
Project Period: 2011-2015

Costs and Benefits of Workplace Health Improvements

The purpose of the project is to more fully assess the costs and benefits of safety and health improvements on the employer and national levels. Two current, major components of this project are the following: (1) An analysis of available methods for estimating the costs and benefits to employers of workplace safety and health improvements, as well as selected case studies. The results can be used as guidance for employers as well as for researchers who are evaluating specific safety and health improvements. (2) A synthesis of published findings on costs of adult asthma and work-related asthma. This is expected to be incorporated in a document on the need for improvements in health care for asthma and in public health tracking of work-related asthma.

Project Contact: Tim Bushnell
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies (DSHEFS)
(513) 458-7108
Project Period: 2011-2013

 
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