While it is easy to see how workers and community members gain from workplace injury prevention strategies, the question of financial benefit to businesses can often appear a bit more complicated. Researchers are now starting to address this question from a number of interesting perspectives.

ISCRR took part in a significant worldwide research project on this topic, coordinated by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

This project was a multinational investigation on a mission to establish a single global cost/benefit of investment in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). The Australian arm of this project was co-coordinated by ISCRR and the Central Queensland University, and led by Professor Niki Ellis.

Australian researchers conducted 10 interviews with 10 companies on return on investment for workplace injury and illness prevention in Australia, before sending their results back to the German team.

More recently, the ISCRR Evidence Review Hub team recently explored this "return on prevention" issue from a different perceptive: to determine whether there was a link between OHS interventions for hospital staff and health and safety outcomes experienced by hospital patients.

Patient outcomes are the primary focus of hospital management board - and yet there had previously been very little research exploring hospital OHS interventions from this angle.

Where to now?

The German leaders of the multinational project released a final report in 2013, concluding that OHS initiatives pay off in global micro-economic terms, particularly in the areas of production, transport, personnel allocation and warehousing.

An additional report was also produced, focusing specifically on results of the Australian arm of the project. This report indicates that for every 1 EUR invested per employee per year in workplace prevention, companies can expect a potential return of 2.5 EUR (figures accurate at time of publication).

ISCRR's review into the impact of hospital staff OHS interventions on patient health and wellbeing outcomes did uncover a link between these two factors, particularly in relation to interventions targeted at staff musculoskeletal disorders associated with patient handling. These interventions have a positive impact on patient comfort and mobility.

The review also indicates that there is a significant knowledge gap in this area. Studies in this area are limited, and most have been undertaken in long-term care or rehabilitation settings which are not relevant to a hospital context.

The researchers recommend a broader review of the topic, including grey literature and other unpublished sources. This kind of study would provide more information to support policy decisions and develop communication tools.