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Liberty Mutual ends peer-reviewed safety research

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The Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety is discontinuing its peer-reviewed research efforts as of June 6. 

Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Obama administration, reported via his Confined Space safety and health newsletter that Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. would close the institute, which has operated for more than 60 years. 

However, the Boston-based insurer said it is not shutting down its Hopkinton, Massachusetts, facility, but is discontinuing its peer-reviewed research efforts.

“Over the last several decades many top-tier research groups and organizations have entered the area of conducting workplace safety research,” the insurer said in an emailed statement. “Recognizing these scientific advances, we have decided to discontinue conducting our own peer-reviewed research at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute. Instead, we will engage with independent specialists and external partners to assist us in meeting our customers’ evolving safety and accident prevention needs and in delivering exceptional experiences and outcomes. Partners include MIT, Harvard School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.”

The research institute comprises four centers: the Center for Injury Epidemiology, the Center for Physical Ergonomics, the Center for Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Disability Research. 

The institute also publishes the insurer’s annual Workplace Safety Index, which reported in January that workplace injuries and accidents cause employees to miss six or more days of work and cost U.S. employers $59.9 billion in 2014. The insurer plans to continue publishing the index, in some capacity, through its risk control organization.

Forty-four employees were impacted by the decision, the insurer said. 

“Liberty Mutual is committed to providing as much assistance as possible as they search for new opportunities both within and outside of Liberty Mutual,” the insurer stated. 

Liberty Mutual was the 8th largest writer of workers compensation insurance in 2016, with $2.4 billion in direct premiums written, a 3.1% decline from 2015, according to National Association of Insurance Commissioners data featured in a May Business Insurance special report.