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NIOSH Center for Workers' Compensation Studies (CWCS)

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Published Proceedings Now Available from the NIOSH Workers’ Compensation Leaders Research Colloquium, December 11, 2014

Executive Summary: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes the value of administrative data from workers’ compensation (WC) systems and currently supports a wide range of research and surveillance based on WC data. Although progress has been made, the full potential of WC data to improve research and practice in occupational safety and health (OSH) has not yet been realized. In recent years, NIOSH has undertaken a focused effort to advance the use of WC data, including the creation of the Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS) in 2013. On December 11, 2014, NIOSH contracted with the RAND Corporation to host a meeting designed to gather input from key stakeholders in the OSH and WC communities on how CWCS could maximize the impact of its surveillance and research activities. A report titled “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Workers’ Compensation Leaders Research Colloquium, December 11, 2014: Proceedings” was released August 18, 2015 to summarize key points made by attendees during the meeting. This document will be used by NIOSH in setting strategic priorities for the CWCS and will be of interest to members of the researcher and practitioner communities using WC data.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is workers’ compensation?

In the United States, workers’ compensation insurance systems were established to provide medical care and partial income protection to employees who are injured or become ill from their job.

What are the types of worker’ compensation data?

Workers’ compensation (WC) claims may be filed after a worker is injured or becomes ill due to their job. Claims may include the nature of injury/illness, how the injury/illness occurred, the type and cost of medical care received, cost of partial wage replacement, the number of days off work, and injured worker characteristics (occupation, age, sex, time with the employer, etc.). Insurers and employers also may collect data on the types of hazards present in the workplace, safety/health programs and controls in place to prevent injury/illness and return-to-work programs to reduce injury/illness severity.

How are workers’ compensation data used?

Workers’ compensation data have been successfully used for surveillance and primary prevention activities by state-based and private insurers, state departments of public health, as well as federal and academic researchers. Early CWCS activities have focused on surveillance. Most CWCS work to date has focused on insurance claim data and has involved working with key partners to develop and share methods.

What are the strengths of workers’ compensation data?

WC data are the best available resource for many surveillance activities and research questions--few other data sources systematically identify injured workers and provide information on occupational injury/illness causes, treatments, and costs. Another strength of WC data is the ability to link it to outside data sources on the basis of multiple identifiers.

What are the limitations of workers’ compensation data?

Meeting participants identified a number of potential limitations to the use of WC data that may include: legal, contractual, and other barriers to the utilization of these data; lack of representation since not all injured workers file claims; and the existence of other technical and institutional limitations.

What is the mission of the NIOSH Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS)?

The mission of the center is to support the use workers’ compensation data and systems to improve workplace safety and health.

What was the purpose of the meeting?

The goal of the colloquium was to gather input from thought leaders and key stakeholders in the occupational safety and health and workers' compensation communities to help NIOSH's Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS) maximize the impact of its research activities.

What was discussed at the meeting?

Items of discussion included how WC data are currently being used, different sources of WC data, strengths and limitations of WC data, and emerging trends within WC systems and the insurance industry. Participants also discussed ideas for CWCS to maximize impact.

What is the purpose of the document?

This document will be used by NIOSH in setting strategic priorities for the CWCS and will be of interest to members of the researcher and practitioner communities using WC data.

Who funded the meeting and document?

NIOSH funded both the Workers’ Compensation Leaders Research Colloquium and preparation of the document.

Does this document reflect the view of NIOSH?

Any opinions discussed in the report are those of the authors and meeting attendees, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NIOSH.

What are the next steps?

The CWCS will review input received during the meeting to help set strategic priorities for the center moving forward.

How can I obtain a copy of the report?

The document is published by RAND and the report is available via

NIOSH Awards Two Cooperative Agreements for Workers’ Compensation Surveillance

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced new funding for cooperative agreements with California and Massachusetts for workers' compensation surveillance. The awards total nearly $400,000 per year for three years. Details information please see:

Impact Update: Ohio Increases Funding for Safety Interventions

In 2010, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a formal partnership to protect Ohio workers from work-related injury and illness. Main goals were to 1) improve injury and illness prevention based on Ohio’s employer and employee needs and workers’ compensation (WC) data, 2) evaluate effectiveness of OHBWC-supported safety-health interventions and programs, and 3) disseminate industry specific best-practices based on scientific research.

This partnership is having direct impact. For example, since 1999 OHBWC has offered a Safety Intervention Grant (SIG) program where employers are provided matching funds to implement engineering controls. Recently, OHBWC and NIOSH Center for Workers’ Compensation (CWCS) studies (see found that the program significantly reduced affected employee claims and costs and OHBWC greatly expanded the annual budget. This past year, the SIG program provided $15 million to 535 employers and OHBWC allocated an additional $45 million for fiscal years 2015-17. OHBWC also allocated about $4 million to fund four major initiatives designed to enhance the safety, health and wellness of Ohio’s workforce. The initiatives include:

  1. Providing additional funding to the 81 safety councils throughout Ohio to conduct more training and seminars directed at improving the health and wellness of Ohio’s workforce.
  2. Providing additional funding for improved training for volunteer firefighters. The funding will allow close to 1,100 volunteer firefighters to receive “Fire Fighter 1 training,” a 120-hr training course which will improve their safety, preparedness and response time to emergencies.
  3. Through collaboration with business, labor and higher education institutions, OHBWC will provide funding to create and implement safety programming as part of required training for the skilled trades such as carpentry, welding and plumbing.
  4. In collaboration with higher education institutions in Ohio, OHBWC will fund small to medium size research-to-practice research projects with short and long term impact to prevent occupational accidents, injuries and illnesses.

OHBWC and NIOSH are analyzing WC injury data from 2001 to 2011. These data include the frequency and cost of claims per employee per year according to specific industry, size of employer, injury/ illness types and causes. The purpose of the analysis is to produce information that can be used by OHBWC insured employers to benchmark their safety and health performance versus industry peers and develop data-driven plans for prevention. This data will also be used by OHBWC and researchers to understand industry risk trends and tailor safety, health, and disability management services to efficiently allocate resources. The overall goal is to reduce the frequency and cost of work-related injuries and illnesses in Ohio. For more information, visit the OHBWC website: .

Workers’ Compensation Surveillance Funding Opportunity

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has announced a Workers’ Compensation Surveillance Funding Opportunity.

The purpose of this cooperative agreement is to compile, analyze, and disseminate workers’ compensation (WC) data to promote the prevention of occupational injuries, illnesses, fatalities, and exposures to hazards within the states and throughout the nation. The WC Surveillance Cooperative Agreements are intended to provide state health and state WC agencies and other eligible organizations and businesses the resources to initiate or expand state-based WC surveillance and intervention activities.

NIOSH intends to commit approximately $5.4 million in new money over a period of six years to fund up to 9 states/grantees for three consecutive years (project period) per state. An applicant state may request up to $200, 000 in total costs per 12-month budget period. The application due dates follow: August 29, 2014, August 31, 2015, August 29, 2016 by 5:00 PM U.S. Eastern Time. A one-time resubmission application is allowed.

See for more information.