Methodological Challenges in the Economic Evaluation of Occupational Health and Safety Programmes

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Nov 21;15(11):2606. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15112606.


An emerging issue in occupational health and safety (OHS) is that interventions increasingly have to demonstrate that they offer sufficient value for money. To this end, the last decennia have seen more and more economic evaluation methods being employed in this field. However, several recent publications have indicated that many of the published studies suffer from important shortcomings. This paper aims to highlight difficulties in assessing the value of OHS by use of current economic evaluation methods. First, a summary framework presents an overview of the costs and benefits relevant for OHS interventions. Next, three elements from this framework are selected that are at the same time crucial to OHS value, but also challenging to measure and monetise: Effects on worker productivity, 'intangible' benefits, such as reputation effects, and the influence of the broader legal⁻fiscal context in which an intervention takes place. The following sections then discuss the following research questions for each of these elements: Why is it difficult to exclude these factors from OHS economic evaluations? Why do they pose a challenge to the quality of economic evaluations in OHS? How can they be included, and what are the known advantages and disadvantages of the methods to measure these factors? Future work should investigate (and standardise) better methods to include these elements.

Keywords: economic evaluation; methodology; occupational health and safety; productivity; workplace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / methods*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health Services / economics*
  • Workplace