Revealing the hidden costs: Research experiences from a case study evaluation project

AuthorJo Burton,Rashmi Rajan
Publication Date01 Dec 2002
Evaluation Journal of Australasia, Vol. 2 (new series), No. 2 , December 2002, pp. 69–73
Jo Burton
Rashmi Rajan
Aftermath: the social and economic consequences of
workplace injury and illness
was a case study evaluation of
the experiences of 15 individuals injured or made ill at work,
their families, friends, workplaces, colleagues and
government officials.1 It was a unique research experience
for those on the project team, as it brought the
researchers into close contact with the pain and suffering
of the participants. This article discusses the methodology
of the study, the experience of the researchers, and what
lessons can be taken from these research experiences.
Employees who are harmed will inevitably bear much of the consequences of what
happens to them by themselves, as others simply will not experience or fully
understand the degree of pain or isolation that they may experience. Likewise, the
costs and consequences to family, friends or work colleagues often go unrecorded and
unobserved, although they are nonetheless real. Many consequences are unable to be
measured directly as an economic cost or some other cost, such as a loss of intimacy
between spouses, or the breakdown of a family unit due to an unexpected death.
To explore these wider costs for society the Social and Economic Consequences of
Workplace Injury and Illness Study was begun in 2001. It aimed to gain an
understanding of the full range of consequences of workplace illness and injury. It
attempted to do this by examining the costs through the experiences of the affected
participant in the study, their family, friends, colleagues, employers and supervisors in
the workplace. As much as is possible, the study tried to gain a depth of
understanding of each case and chart the uncounted effects on society.
The study objectives were:
to explore the social and economic consequences of workplace injury and illness
for injured and ill employees, their families, and the workplace
to identify key characteristics that determine social consequences
to inform investment in health and safety in the workplace.
The unit of analysis for these questions was the ill or injured employee and their
relationships in the home, workplace and community. A case study approach, with
Revealing the hidden costs:
research experiences from a case
study evaluation project
Jo Burton (top photo) is an
Assistant Policy Analyst,
Labour Market Policy Group,
Department of Labour, New
Rashmi Rajan (bottom photo)
is a Senior Policy Analyst,
Occupational Safety and
Health Service, Department of
Labour, New Zealand.
Burton, Rajan – Revealing the hidden costs

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