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Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance and Research Using Workers' Compensation Data

Utterback, David F. PhD; Schnorr, Teresa M. PhD; Silverstein, Barbara A. PhD; Spieler, Emily A. JD; Leamon, Tom B. PhD; Amick, Benjamin C. III PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 2 - p 171–176
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31823c14cb
Original Articles

Objective: Examine uses of US workers' compensation (WC) data for occupational safety and health purposes.

Methods: This article is a summary of the proceedings from an invitational workshop held in September 2009 to discuss the use of WC data for occupational safety and health prevention purposes.

Results: Workers' compensation data systems, although limited in many ways, contain information such as medical treatments, their costs and outcomes, and disability causes that are unavailable from national occupational surveillance sources.

Conclusions: Despite their limitations, WC records are collected in a manner consistent with many occupational health and safety surveillance needs. Reports are available on the use of WC data for surveillance and research purposes such as estimating the frequency, magnitude, severity, and cost of compensated injuries. Inconsistencies in WC data can limit generalization of research results.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Drs Utterback and Schnorr), Cincinnati, Ohio; Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (Dr Silverstein), Olympia, Wash; Northeastern University School of Law (Dr Spieler) and Harvard University School of Public Health (Dr Leamon), Boston, Mass; and University of Texas School of Public Health (Dr Amick), Houston.

Address correspondence to: David F. Utterback, PhD, CDC/NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, R-12, Cincinnati, OH 45226 (

The contents of this article are the responsibility of the authors and not the contributors to the September 2009 workshop on the use of workers' compensation data.

All funds for this research were from US appropriations to NIOSH.

Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine