Background: Every year, millions of the 135 million workers in the U.S. are injured on the job or become ill as a result of exposure to health hazards at work. These work-related injuries and illnesses result in substantial human and economic costs for workers and employers and for society at large; it has been estimated that the direct and indirect costs of work-related injuries and illnesses exceed $170 billion annually. Work-related injuries and illnesses can be prevented, and successful approaches to making workplaces safer and healthier begin with having the data necessary to understand the problem.
Occupational health indicators are measures of health (work-related disease or injury) or factors associated with health (workplace exposures, hazards, or interventions) that allow a state to compare its health or risk status with that of other states and evaluate trends over time. These data can help guide priorities for prevention and intervention efforts. The indicators that have been developed represent the consensus view of state and NIOSH representatives and are intended as advisory to the states. They are a subset of the conditions recommended for surveillance in a 2001 subcommittee report on draft profiles for priority conditions to be placed under surveillance as part of state-based surveillance systems. The indicators are intended to be used in conjunction with other guidelines for state-based surveillance of occupational injuries and illnesses (NIOSH 1995, CSTE 2001) and to be used as a complement to overall state and national goals to improve the health of the population (DHHS 2000).
Indicator Development: Recognizing the need for improved consistency and availability of occupational disease and injury surveillance data, a workgroup of state CSTE representatives and federal occupational health professionals developed a standard set of Occupational Health Indicators (OHIs) that could be used to measure the baseline health of working populations and changes that take place over time. The workgroup defined a set of 20 OHIs and employment demographic measures, selected because of their importance to public health and the availability of easily obtainable statewide data in most states. These definitions and a standardized methodology for their calculation were compiled in a guidance document.
Thirteen states then piloted the indicators to compile an initial set of 19 OHIs. The states’ results and comparison national data, where available, were published by CSTE in a 2005 document. Additional states have begun calculating and submitting data using the standardized methodology that is reviewed and updated yearly. Data for 2008 was submitted by 28 state programs and NIOSH. A list of the programs that submitted OHI data for this project can be found here.
For more information about the occupational health indicators, please contact Erin Simms. Click here to view other occupational health activities. For information about a specific indicator, contact the occupational health indicators point of contact.
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