telephoneThe Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced plans for a survey aimed at finding out why so many workplace injuries go unreported.

"Barriers to Occupational Injury Reporting by Workers: A NEISS-Work Telephone Interview Survey" is expected to take two years and include 1200 telephone interviews.

The CDC's notice of the study, published in the federal register, says there are 3.4 million workers treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments each year for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses.

"Although studies indicate that we have reduced the number of nonfatal injuries in recent decades, there is evidence that nonfatal occupational injury surveillance significantly underreports workplace injuries. This presumed undercount potentially decreases health and safety funding because of a false sense of improvement and increases the misdirection of scarce safety and health resources."

The need for reliable and comprehensive occupational injury surveillance resulted in studies in 1987 by the National Academy of Science and in a 2008 Congressional report.

The CDC says the proposed pilot research will address:
• Understanding barriers and incentives to reporting occupational injuries, and
• Using this knowledge to assess and improve surveillance activities.

"The objectives of this project are to (1) Characterize and quantify the relative importance of incentives and disincentives to self-identifying work-relatedness at the time of medical treatment and to employers; (2) characterize individual and employment characteristics that are associated with non-reporting of workplace injuries and incentives and disincentives to reporting; (3) test the reliability of hospital abstractors to properly distinguish between work-related and non-work-related injuries; and (4) evaluate the feasibility, need, and requirements for a future larger study."

Survey participants will be identified by using the occupational and the all injuries supplements to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS-Work and NEISS-AIP), which was conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and collected information on people who were treated in the emergency department (ED) for injuries.

"Interview respondents will come from two subgroups—individuals treated for a work-related injury and individuals who were treated for a non-work-related injury but who were employed during the time period that the injury occurred," according to the CDC proposal.

Data collection for the telephone interview survey will be done via a questionnaire which contains questions about the respondent's injury that sent them to the ED, the characteristics of the job they were working when they were injured, their experiences reporting their injury to the ED and their employer (if applicable), and their beliefs about the process and subsequent consequences of reporting an injury. The questionnaire will take 30 minutes to complete.

Details are available at the Federal Register.