Follow the numbers to reduce injuries
Duke surveillance combines data sources
Do you know where your injuries are occurring? If you are just counting the incidents on your OSHA log, you may be missing some important information. Adding workers’ compensation information and even health risk appraisals to your surveillance can help you identify safety concerns.
The Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System, created in 2001 to monitor health care workers in the Duke University Health System in Durham, NC, has identified groups of employees at the greatest risk of injury, says John Dement, PhD, CIH, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the university.
"We’ve used the workers comp data and other data sources to address a number of issues," he says.
"Data systems [often] collect information about events that happen but never put in it context," he says. "We’ve been able to look at rates by work location and job. It just gives you a richer set of information to define the problem and hopefully to design interventions to improve the situation."
For example, by linking workers’ compensation and human resources information and examining the data over a seven-year period, Dement and his colleagues were able to determine the employees at highest risk of musculoskeletal injuries: nurses’ aides, housekeepers and dietary staff. They also found smaller groups of employees with a higher-than-expected rate of injury: morgue technicians, patient transporters and skilled craft workers (maintenance workers).
Without the ability to dig deeper into the numbers, some of the high-risk occupations with fewer employees would not be identified, he says.
The system also can correlate personal health risk factors and workplace risks. For example, Duke is looking at the overall health burden of obesity, as it targets obesity in health promotion programs. Eventually, the surveillance system will reveal whether the health promotion was a successful intervention, Dement says.