IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

A Review of Methods for Evaluating the Financial Merits of OHS Interventions


Employment injuries generate high costs that are borne by all economic players in society (workers, employers, insurers, and the community). OHS interventions may help reduce the magnitude of these costs. However, are the investments always worth the cost? And how can we assess the financial merits of OHS interventions? 
This study reflects the institutional determination to develop knowledge and tools related to evaluating the financial merits of OHS interventions in organizations.
A review of the most recent studies on this topic published between 1995 and 2017 provided us with an overview of the main approaches used in the scientific literature to perform this type of analysis. While cost-benefit analysis was the type of analysis carried out in the vast majority of the studies, the literature review revealed, among other things, a wide variety in the methodologies used by the researchers. These differences were found mainly in the study design, time frame, and composition of the costs and benefits of the interventions analyzed. Divergences were also observed in the results obtained. In fact, although the interventions were cost-beneficial in the majority of the studies examined, some interventions proved to be highly so, and others, not at all. 
In addition to the variety of approaches used by the researchers, the characteristics of the interventions and the environment in which the studies were conducted (during and after the intervention) were found to be key elements having potentially major impacts on the financial merits of OHS interventions. Therefore, it is not recommended that the results obtained in one study be generalized to another context. With a few exceptions, each analysis is unique and results are difficult to “transfer.” 
As the scientific literature does not point to clear conclusions regarding the financial merits of OHS interventions, standardized practices would be preferable. Among other things, they would allow for standardization of the level of quality of the studies published in the literature and would facilitate comparisons. Such standardization has its limitations, however, since in this type of study, researchers sometimes have little or no control over certain factors that can influence their analyses. 
This report is also intended to serve as a reference document or guide insofar as it presents and describes the various methodological concepts related to carrying out an economic evaluation of OHS interventions. In addition, it makes recommendations regarding the methodological choices inherent in conducting this type of study.