NIOSH Center for Workers' Compensation Studies (CWCS)

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation systems were established to provide partial medical care and 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 workers’ compensation insurance coverage through private insurers or state-certified compensation insurance funds. Larger employers may also have the option to self-insure. These systems are complex and governed by state laws.

Types of workers’ compensation data:

  • Claims Information: Workers’ compensation claims may be filed after a worker is injured or becomes ill due to their job. Claims 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, gender, time with the employer, etc.).
  • Employer Information: Insurers and employers 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.

Currently, there is no central source for workers’ compensation data in the US, though each state government collects some claims information for its private industry, state, and local government employers. The federal government maintains separate workers’ compensation databases for federally-governed employers. Organizations, such as the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI)external icon, and the Workers Compensation Research Instituteexternal icon also collect claims information in many US states.

Standardized data coding systems are used for workers’ compensation claims information in many but not all US states. The coding systems differ in purpose, scope, and data elements. NCCI and independent state rating bureaus have developed coding systems for industry risk classifications. The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Organizations (WCIO)external icon have developed a code system for injury cause, nature and part of body. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC)external icon has also developed standardized data coding and reporting systems used in many states.

News and Events

Ohio BWC Partnership Update

The partnership between the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has produced several new studies, which are summarized below.

Temporary Workers: Researchers found that workers employed in temporary agencies had higher overall workers’ compensation claim rates than permanently employed workers performing comparable work from 2001 to 2013 among Ohio BWC‐insured private employers. Injured temporary agency workers were younger, more likely to be male, and had less tenure (especially those with less than a year on the job) compared to permanently employed workers. Read more about the study on this NIOSH Science Blog and access the full research study hereexternal icon.

Traumatic Brain Injuries: This study identified and prioritized several high‐risk industry groups for traumatic brain injury (TBI) prevention efforts by reviewing thousands of workers’ compensation claims with TBI diagnoses. Access the full research study hereexternal icon.

Construction Industry Case Studies: Researchers reviewed 153 Ohio BWC Safety Intervention Grant case studies of equipment interventions to improve safety and health of construction businesses in Ohio in 2003–2016. Access the full research study hereexternal icon.

Safety and Wellness Program Integration: This research describes levels of integration between occupational safety and health and workplace wellness programs among participants in an Ohio BWC-sponsored wellness grant program. Access the full research study hereexternal icon.

Workers’ Compensation Surveillance Funding Update

NIOSH Cooperative Agreements for Workers’ Compensation Surveillance

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been funding workers’ compensation (WC) surveillance cooperative agreements with five states, including California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan. The purpose of these cooperative agreements is to compile, analyze, and disseminate WC claims data to promote the prevention of occupational injuries, illnesses, fatalities, and exposures to hazards within the states and throughout the nation. As part of the grant, each awarded state is in the process of producing final reports and public data visualizations to summarize WC claims by industry and cause and suggest prevention activities. Below are links to currently available WC grant data reports:

Opioids in the Workplace

Data from workers’ compensation (WC) systems has played a vital role in the initial identification and response to the opioid epidemic. Several key studies using WC data are summarized on the NIOSH opioids website along with specific prevention resources and other research actitivies.

Page last reviewed: May 6, 2019