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New tool offers cost-benefit metrics for OHS

By COS staff
| www.cos-mag.com

The Institute for Work and Health will soon make available a free online tool that would help safety managers measure the costs and benefits of OHS programs.

The Health & Safety Smart Planner provides economic evaluation for organizations as they weigh the costs versus the overall benefits of an OHS initiative, the IWH announced in the recent issue of its At Work newsletter.

“Health and safety planning should be based on a thorough analysis of all the benefits and costs associated with an intervention. This can be a challenge for workplaces to undertake,” Emile Tompa, a scientist and economist with the IWH, said in the IWH report. Tompa led the development of the Health & Safety Smart Planner software.

He said the Smart Planner tool was built on “sound economic principles” in an easy-to-use format.

The up-front costs of occupational health and safety initiatives can be a deterrent for companies to invest in them, without realizing that the overall benefits — such as lower injury rates and increased worker productivity — can outweigh these costs over time, IWH said.

The Smart Planner currently consists of two versions. The first one is designed for the manufacturing and services sectors in Ontario and funded by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Research Advisory Council. The second version is being developed for the health-care sector in British Columbia, financed by WorkSafeBC.

In 2007, Tompa led a systematic review that looked at studies of effective OHS programs that also took into account the costs and benefits. He found there was a notable lack of studies with an economic component. The review also found that several types of OHS programs, such as ergonomic interventions in the manufacturing and warehousing sector, led to both health and financial returns, the IWH said.

“Through other research projects, we realized that workplaces and other interested parties lack guidance on how to conduct this type of evaluation, even though it provides valuable information on the resource implications of an OHS intervention,” Tompa explained.

The Smart Planner offers “more immediate evidence” and an easier way to do an economic evaluation of the cost and benefits of an OHS program, through a step-by-step approach with simple explanations throughout. Users are prompted to enter the necessary information into the system, the software makes the key calculations and the results appear in a summary sheet. It also features a database that stores all the information pertaining to the costs of ongoing OHS incidents in the workplace, as well as the economic analyses of interventions.

The IWH said that while the first version of the software has just been completed, further improvements are already in progress, including a plan to incorporate video training clips into the software. There are also plans to develop and customize another version of the tool specifically for Manitoba, following the approval by the province’s Workplace Compensation Board of a grant to fund this development, IWH said.

The Health & Safety Smart Planner will available as a free download from the IWH website this spring, at www.iwh.on.ca/smart-planner.

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