Big Data Analysis for Health and Safety in the Workplace

April 4, 2016
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Today, many Australians encounter problems filing legitimate work injury claims to obtain compensation after sustaining harm on the job. As insurance companies search for ways to deny payments to insureds, assistance for workers and their legal counsel may arise through an innovative source.

Big data promises to transform Australian workplaces in novel, revitalizing ways. It offers hope to employees who sustain serious, life-altering injuries on-the-job.

Today, many Australians encounter problems filing legitimate work injury claims to obtain compensation after sustaining harm on the job. As insurance companies search for ways to deny payments to insureds, assistance for workers and their legal counsel may arise through an innovative source.

Big data promises to transform Australian workplaces in novel, revitalizing ways. It offers hope to employees who sustain serious, life-altering injuries on-the-job.

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Creating Healthier, Safer Workplaces

The overriding goal of a healthier, safer workplace remains an ideal for everyone involved in this process, of course. Most employers and insurers, like employees, greatly prefer workplace situations in which no one sustains harm.

By touting the virtues of safety, established state and private institutions present a kinder face to the public and uphold their image as bastions of moral probity. Modern society adheres to a charmingly benign, simple philosophy: safe workplaces, good; unsafe workplaces, bad.

Shades of Complexity

Yet difficulties arise, of course, in that life frequently fails to mesh nicely with simplistic ideologies. Our Australian legal system furnishes ample evidence that the nuances of individual workers’ situations populate a landscape composed of a myriad of complex, subtle grays, not clear cut black and white scenarios. Even safe workplaces sometimes harbour unforeseen hazards. Conscientious, dedicated workers may come to harm performing a job, despite no failure on their part to adhere rigorously to accepted safety practices. When this happens, injured individuals look to the established framework of insurance to help them.

Some claims adjusters strive to minimize or discount the legitimate suffering of injured workers after workplace accidents in an effort to force round pegs to fit a nice, neatly presentable, square hole, as the racial and ethnic disparities in some workers compensation awards so eloquently testify. Until the advent of big data analysis, the insurance industry frequently encountered limited opposition, even from personal injuries lawyers sympathetic to the plight of maimed or ailing workers.

An Illustration

An extreme illustration of this unjust situation concerns policy holders who suffer denials of claims for Total Permanent Disability coverage unfairly. Several circumstances raise concern. Adjusters who pressure medical doctors to change or review their previous opinions and diagnoses. Medical files that mysteriously disappear in the wake of a contested case. And the use of strict construction of medical terminology to deny claims. All these factors may produce legitimate concerns over whether the best interest of their insureds actually motivates some claims adjusters.

Sick and injured Australians workers in the past have encountered difficulties establishing claims to compensation. For instance, Carter Capner Law has announced that it will accept cases from some denied claimants seeking compensation from Comminsure. The public can expect to read more news reports about litigation relating to the matter in coming weeks and months. Health and safety in the workplace today sometimes inspire legal disputes concerning the obligations of the parties.

Big Data Solutions

Many issues underlying litigation surrounding insurance compensation for injured or sick workers in Australia will likely obtain clarification in the future from the analysis of “Big Data”. This new high tech field did not even exist a few years ago.

Yet today, the immense power of databases combined with enhanced computer processing capabilities enables the collection and analysis of information gathered in real time. The process of Big Data collection and evaluation promises to transform many economic sectors in some exciting new ways. More personal injury legal practices in Australia will likely embrace this innovation very soon, as counsel call upon the services of Big Data analysts to assist in prosecuting and defending claims for personal injury compensation.

Helping Injured or Ailing Workers

How might Big Data and law offer useful assistance to injured or ailing workers? Just consider some of these potential scenarios:

  • Big Data analysis reveals that currently a high percentage of workers employed in a particular factory suffer from cancer symptoms;

  • Legal counsel, denied access to individual employee medical records, can subpoena video camera tapes showing employees checking into the physician’s office after leaving work following on-the-job injuries;

  • A Big Data analysis reveals that workers in a particular department run a statistically significantly higher risk for suffering a particular injury than their peers working in the same field at every other plant in Australia;

  • Reviews of records obtained through Big Data reveals that a particular employer (or insurer) maintains a far higher than average statistical rate of denying worker claims for compensation for a specific type of injury.

These, and many other types of information tools, will likely become widely available to law firms that draw upon Big Data as a resource for gaining evidence in worker compensation lawsuits.

Privacy Issues

Of course, today many instances exist in which Big Data tools rest upon the compilation of a multitude of individual statistics and figures acquired through the use of databases that gather information in real time. Significant privacy issues do exist for everyone, as a result.

Plaintiffs who seek to “game the system” by feigning injuries on the job repeatedly in order to seek compensation will likely suffer exposure and criminal prosecution as a result of Big Data services. Yet individuals and employers who abide by the law could potentially suffer significant invasions of personal and business privacy due to the wider use of Big Data by online data mining firms. The process potentially threatens privacy in irresponsible hands.

An Intriguing New Tool

In the future, society will need to address the proper usage of Big Data and, perhaps, place some limits upon its use in the legal arena. Like many other important innovations today, Big Data operates in a complex realm of grays.