by Greg Snider editing by Steve Mantis
Canadians just went through an election were three of our four major national parties were adamant that Governments needed to start making science based decisions and not decision lead Science. The fourth party claimed their decisions were science based, after all it is pretty hard to say that you shouldn’t review your work, or the work of others, to ensure you are doing the best you can. The same rule obviously holds true for any Workers Compensation Program.
The challenge is to have meaningful research done without predetermination and to be read accurately.
Currently our greatest problem is the predetermination. This occurs because of who pays for research. This results in much of the current research being done by organizations with the money to do that research. It goes without saying that these groups are not Injured Workers but corporate representatives. If you are receiving research money from an organization that clearly wants to cut compensation costs, you will, in order to keep receiving funding show results that suggest a cost cutting direction for workers compensation. Our solution here is to have a non-biased Workers Compensation Program directing research projects.
A non-biased Workers Compensation Provider in consultation with injured workers, labour and the corporate sector is best suited to determine what fields should fall under review. With the corporate sector controlling the majority of research there is an emphasis on research that will lead to lower employer costs. The Injured worker in these studies is often reduced to a number or cost. I recall hearing a researcher talking about their study saying that three in four workers in their study did better. After she completed her presentation an Injured Worker asked about what happened with the one in four that didn’t do better. The researcher had no answer but surely if this program causes severe damage to one in four people it should be a concern for Workers Compensation. The research had a plan to save money for three of four Injured Workers and that is what mattered to the study.
Finally any studies completed by the Workers Compensation Provider or any studies reviewed by them must be shared with Injured workers and the Labour movement so that the Provider can benefit from a different perspectives of what the studies findings do reveal. Workers Compensation in Ontario was very happy to tell Injured Worker activist Steve Mantis that their study showed that there was actually an increase in the income received by Injured Workers after their Injury. A frustrated Steve Mantis pointed out that a closer look at the research clearly indicated that although some workers were able to return to work and follow a normal progression of pay raises and promotions, many others were suffering huge income losses to the point of living in poverty. In this case, a mere look at the average or mean Injured Worker income did not tell the whole story and a second perspective was required.
Research is a vital tool for developing an ever better workers compensation system but like many tools in our garage it can cause a great deal of damage if misused.