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Research Project Number 2Develop common criteria for reporting injuries and deaths

Research Project Number 2Develop common criteria for reporting injuries and deaths

The problem: Transportation-related deaths and injuries are key measures of interest in the department's strategic plan. But the modes currently use up to eight different sets of definitions and reporting criteria. This includes the description of what constitutes a death or injury, as well as what kinds of activities and victims might be subject to reporting. For example:

  • Most modes count any death that occurs within 30 days of an incident. But two modes use other thresholds: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) uses 360 days for illness-related deaths, and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) does not specify a period of time.
  • Every mode has a different set of conditions defining a reportable injury. The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) and USCG each have two different criteria, depending on the program.
  • The modes often treat similar circumstances very differently-e.g., ground crew in aviation are counted while longshoremen in the maritime industry are not; rail maintenance workers are counted while shipyard and bus maintenance workers are not. The question is: what does transportation-related mean?

This variety of criteria makes aggregate counts of transportation deaths and injuries misleading. The aggregate numbers cannot be used reliably to present trends, as modal shifts would distort the comparisons. The numbers also cannot be disaggregated and compared for purposes of finding differences in risk or applying lessons from one mode to another (e.g., in the area of human factors), since the meaning of terms is not consistent.

What we need: There are differences in operating environment that need to be understood and respected. There are also historical differences and sometimes large stakeholder investments in the current systems. We will need to provide for comparability across time in any case, such that we don't create discontinuities in measurement that disrupt our view of long-term trends. However, the potential solutions are not necessarily all-or-nothing changes. We need: 1) sufficient detail to classify the reports in common terms, 2) a reasonable approach for crosswalking definitions, or 3) changes in the reporting criteria.

First, we need to identify and inventory the inconsistencies, and develop common principles for describing the circumstances of death/injury. Then we should explore options for crosswalking the data or extending the level of detail to permit such crosswalks. Finally, we will need to explore the feasibility of consistent, national definitions and reporting. These last two steps will be particularly challenging in view of modal investments and differences in program jurisdiction.

Benefits: Common criteria in some form will allow us to set goals and manage resources across modesat the departmental levelwhich we cannot do now with existing data. They will help provide a better sense of relative risk in different operating environments, and they will permit more reliable use of lessons learned in one mode by another. They will also provide a more credible public view of departmental data.