The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is seeking comment on a proposed study aimed at determining the effectiveness and economic return of a state-sponsored workers’ wellness program. It seeks to understand such a program’s impact on traditional occupational safety and health (OSH) programs. NIOSH is an agency of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research undertaking, Employer Perspective of an Insurer-Sponsored Wellness Grant, to be done in collaboration with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC), will examine the latter’s Workplace Wellness Grant Program (WWGP). In 2012, OHBWC sought to integrate wellness and OSH programs by launching the WWGP, in which an estimated 400 (currently 321) employers and 13,000 employees were to be provided $4 million over four years to implement wellness programs, NIOSH said. NIOSH intends to achieve the study’s goals by analyzing data from the WWGP and by interviewing some participating employers. NIOSH estimated that data collection would be completed in 2017.

“There is a need for research to demonstrate a ‘business case’ for both wellness programs and integrated OSH wellness programs and [to] identify OSH organizational and management policies, programs and practices that effectively reduce work-related injuries, illnesses, disabilities and WC [workers’ compensation] costs,” NIOSH said in a Federal Register announcement on January 12. An analysis of work-related injuries and illnesses in the U.S. found that, in 2007, medical and indirect costs came to an estimated $250 billion, NIOSH said.

“If the WWGP is effective at improving worker health, reducing WC claims and demonstrating a positive economic return, then other employers and insurance carriers may develop similar programs and drive the optimization of integrated OSH-wellness approaches,” NIOSH said.

Since 2004, NIOSH has advocated an approach that coordinates wellness programs with OSH programs because, it maintains, “emerging evidence suggests that integrating these two fields may have a synergistic effect on worker safety and health.”