Objective: We sought to estimate the undercount in the existing national surveillance system of occupational injuries and illnesses.
Methods: Adhering to the strict confidentiality rules of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we matched the companies and individuals who reported work-related injuries and illnesses to the Bureau in 1999, 2000, and 2001 in Michigan with companies and individuals reported in four other Michigan data bases, workers’ compensation, OSHA Annual Survey, OSHA Integrated Management Information System, and the Occupational Disease Report. We performed capture–recapture analysis to estimate the number of cases missed by the combined systems.
Results: We calculated that the current national surveillance system did not include 61% and with capture–recapture analysis up to 68% of the work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred annually in Michigan. This was true for injuries alone, 60% and 67%, and illnesses alone 66% and 69%, respectively.
Conclusions: The current national system for work-related injuries and illnesses markedly underestimates the magnitude of these conditions. A more comprehensive system, such as the one developed for traumatic workplace fatalities, that is not solely dependent on employer based data sources is needed to better guide decision-making and evaluation of public health programs to reduce work-related conditions.