Tools you can use: A practical way to apply best evidence

The Institute for Work & Health is adding to its collection of user-friendly tools to help you make health, safety and return-to-work decisions based on the best scientific evidence.

Published: February 10, 2009

How can researchers help workplaces make health and safety decisions based on evidence? This question has spawned a range of strategies at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). These include research highlights, audience involvement in research, and professional networks for information exchange. IWH is now placing greater focus on another strategy: developing evidence-based tools. Evidence tools are user-friendly guides to help decision-makers understand and apply research.

Research users are telling us that such tools assist them in applying research evidence to their decision-making, says Jane Gibson, director of Knowledge Transfer and Exchange. IWH has been in the business of creating evidence guides and tools for some time, but we are increasing the number of tools that we’re producing. The popularity of the Seven Principles for Successful Return to Work is one recent example.

Here are some new or upcoming tools to look for, with information about the IWH research from which they were drawn.

Working Together

This hands-on guide helps occupational therapists (OTs) share return-to-work (RTW) knowledge with employers. It merges the Seven Principles into four stages reflecting OT practice processes. The tool, developed by members of the OT clinical network (made up of peer-nominated informal opinion leaders), the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists, the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario and IWH, is now online at

The supporting research: The Seven Principles, which were developed from a systematic review of studies on effective RTW interventions.

Red Flags/Green Lights Return-to-Work Guide

Each year, a fraction of compensation claims don’t proceed as smoothly as expected, which can complicate recovery for injured workers. This tool helps decision-makers identify and avert the situations that may cause a claim to turn down such an unintended road (“red flags”). It also offers helpful practices (“green lights”). “The tool provides signs for different players, so that they can understand the different aspects of the injured worker’s problem and ask relevant questions,” says Scientist Dr. Ellen MacEachen. The guide is expected to be complete in spring 2009.

The supporting research: A study of complex claims led by MacEachen, which identified many of the red flags, as well as workshops across Ontario with workers, employers, health-care providers and workers’ compensation board staff, where solutions, or green lights, were discussed and confirmed.

Participatory Ergonomics

This guide distills the essential elements needed to successfully implement a participatory ergonomics (PE) program in the workplace. It also includes real-life examples showing what happens with and without these elements. A PE approach, which seeks workers’ input on how to organize their work, helps prevent injury. “The idea for this guide came from stakeholders in systematic review meetings in Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario,” says Associate Scientist Dwayne Van Eerd. The guide is expected to be available in mid-2009.

The supporting research: Two IWH systematic reviews, the first on the effectiveness of PE interventions and the second on the successful implementation of PE interventions.

Economic Evaluation Workbook

This practical workbook is designed to help decision-makers determine the economic costs and consequences of an occupational health and safety (OHS) program. The workbook team includes partners from Ontario and British Columbia. Workbooks specific to the manufacturing, service and health-care sectors will be developed. The scheduled completion date is December 2009.

The supporting research: A systematic review of OHS interventions with economic evaluations, led by Scientist Dr. Emile Tompa, as well as a methods text on economic evaluation edited by Tompa.