Make your business a falls-free zone!

September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month

Submitted by STEADY U Ohio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Aging

Older adults probably play an important role in the success of your business, both as consumers and employees. That is, until they fall down.

One in three older adults will fall this year. Every five minutes, an older Ohioan is injured in a fall. When staff or customers fall in your business, it doesn’t just hurt them; it also hurts your reputation and your bottom line. A single fall can affect an older adult’s ability to remain independent and contribute to your continuing success.

Most falls in businesses can be prevented, and prevention can be achieved largely through staff and customer education and motivation. The STEADY U Ohio initiative is ready to help businesses create a safer environment for older adults and Ohioans of all ages who do business with them. Here are a few steps every business should take to prevent falls:

  • Create a falls prevention policy for your business and make sure your employees know and understand it.
  • Routinely identify issues with flooring, stairs, lighting and housekeeping that could cause accidents.
  • Post signs at your entrance and around the business advising customers to notify staff of slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Ensure that walkways are clean and clear of cords and obstructions. If you must use rugs or mats, ensure that they remain flat and that they do not move under foot.
  • Ensure that people can move freely around displays in the aisles without adjusting their gait. Avoid displays at the end of aisles that obscure a customer’s view of other customers and obstacles.
  • Have staff regularly monitor aisles for items that have fallen off shelves and are blocking.
  • Quickly clean up all spills (dry and wet). Provide supplies (i.e., towels, “wet floor” signs, trash cans) in convenient locations around your business.
  • Provide seating around your business, particularly in areas where customers may have to wait during busy times (e.g., near checkout lines, the service desk, the pharmacy, restrooms and exits).
  • When it’s snowy or icy, extend sales or offer shopping options for older customers (e.g., delivery or rain checks by phone) so they don’t have to risk falling to get a good deal.
  • Educate staff on proper lifting and carrying techniques and equipment, and instruct them to help customers carry large or bulky objects and bags.
  • If someone falls, document the incident and examine the cause so that you can prevent future accidents. Use our incident report template to get started.
  • Empower staff to offer assistance to customers who appear to be having trouble getting around.

Find tools to help your business prevent falls at our website, www.steadyu.ohio.gov. Resources include a sample falls prevention policy, a hazard checklist, an incident report template, tip sheets and a falls risk self-assessment. Educate yourself, your staff and your consumers, and make your business a falls-free zone!

Protecting Ohioans in agriculture

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Agriculture has always been a critical component of Ohio’s economy and one of the state’s major industries for employment.

According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is also the most hazardous industry in the country. Each day, almost 100 agriculture workers in the U.S. suffer a lost-time work injury, with 60 percent related to overexertion or slips, trips and falls.

With all of this in mind, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) decided once again to promote its products and services at the Farm Science Review – one of the premier agricultural trade and education shows in the nation. Hosted by The Ohio State University, this year’s event runs Sept. 19-21 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

For the second straight year, representatives from DSH will staff a booth to engage visitors about the free programs and services we offer to assist employers and workers in Ohio’s agribusiness.

For example, our industrial hygienists can help farms guard against environmental hazards, including chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, dust, mold, extreme noise and temperature extremes.

Our ergonomists can illustrate ways to cut down on hazards resulting from:

  • Manual materials handling;
  • Repetitive, hand-intensive work;
  • Poor workstation design;
  • Sedentary work.

The average cost of a lost-time claim for Ohio agriculture companies* is a little more than $52,000. Our safety consultants can help prevent common but costly injuries to protect the bottom line of Ohio’s agriculture businesses and their workers.

If you’re going to Farm Science Review this week, stop by and see us! We’re booth No. 32 in Building 513.     

Related links
Grain Storage and Handling Operations – The Deadliest Hazards
Safe at Work, Safe at Home  

*With 10 to 49 employees

Opioid infographic illustrates BWC’s success, pharmacy leadership

Document’s release coincides with director’s retirement

By Nick Trego, Clinical Operations Manager, Pharmacy Department

Click on infographic  for larger image.

BWC’s communications department recently completed an infographic summarizing our work over the last six years to rein in excessive opioid prescriptions and the dangers they pose to injured workers, namely abuse, addiction and death.

Using a mix of colors, illustrations and statistics, the infographic is a roadmap of the steps we’ve taken to reduce the number of injured workers dependent on opioids from 8,029 in 2011 to 4,101 in 2016, a near 50 percent drop.

It’s called “Saving Lives — BWC battles the opioid crisis.” A better title might be, “Saving Lives — a tribute to John Hanna.”

Hanna, our pharmacy director, retires Sept. 29 after eight years in the job. More than anyone, it is John who is responsible for the achievements highlighted in the infographic, as well as for other pharmacy program reforms we’ve implemented to protect injured workers.  Along the way, with the backing of BWC leadership, he also built a pharmacy department that is a model in the work comp industry today.

When John arrived at BWC in 2009, we had no real pharmacy department to speak of. It was essentially a mix of disparate services shared by various personnel in service offices throughout the state. We had no formulary, no clinical review committees. Controls and best practices were low. Costs and drug utilization were high. For a system that experienced more than 100,000 new injured workers a year, we had to do better.

What followed over the next several years were a series of improvements to reduce inappropriate prescribing of opioids and other dangerous drugs. We created a Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee of six physicians and six pharmacists to provide recommendations on all medication-related policy. We created the first work-comp-specific closed formulary in the nation. We stopped coverage of any new opioid formulation until it was reviewed by our P&T Committee. And in 2016, we implemented a rule that requires providers to use a set of best practice guidelines when prescribing opioids. If they don’t follow those guidelines, they risk losing their BWC certification.

To further demonstrate our commitment, we offer injured workers who meet specific criteria up to 18 months of paid recovery services if the treatment for their workplace injury leads to an opioid addiction.

In other enhancements, we developed an automated program that flags claimants with high-risk medication regimens. We implemented “electronic edits” that require all drugs in medical-only claims to have a prior authorization to continue to be covered past 60 days. The same goes for workers who’ve had no claim activity for 270 days. We became the first state agency to cover naloxone products, as well as the first state agency to add Abuse Deterrent Formulations of opioids as a choice for prescribers. And earlier this year, our board of directors approved a rule restricting first prescriptions for opioids to seven days or 30 doses.

Our work has garnered local and national media attention, and work comp programs across the country are calling us, wanting to mirror our success. Topping it off, we wound up saving our agency money. That’s right, I said “saving.” For every dollar we spent on reforms, 50 came back to us in savings. All told, our department spends nearly $49.6 million less on medications today than we did in 2011.

Not that any of this was cost-driven. John always told us, “If we implement best clinical practices, the savings will follow.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Kasich recognized John for his efforts, awarding him the Governor’s Award for Employee Excellence. The industry has recognized his efforts, too. Just last month, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions named John and our team winners of its 2017 Innovation Award.

None of this was easy, but John kept us focused on one guiding principal: “Do what’s best for the injured worker. That’s why we’re here.”

Thanks, John.

Click here for more on BWC’s efforts on the opioid front.

 

BWC fraud investigators secure 8 convictions in August

Business owners, claimants and a healthcare provider who attempted to cheat the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) are among eight convictions secured by the agency in August.

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 100.

“Employer premiums are set aside to care for Ohio’s injured workers,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’re holding employers, medical providers and injured workers who cheat the system accountable to protect those dollars for Ohioans who need assistance until they can return to work.”

Among those convicted last month:

Richard Rocco, Rocco Prosthetics and Orthotics, of Cincinnati, Ohio
Rocco pleaded guilty Aug. 31 in the Franklin County Municipal Court to one count of falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor.  Rocco, operator of Rocco Prosthetic and Orthotics, submitted multiple C-9 forms (Physician’s Request for Medical Service) without the knowledge or authority of the physicians whose names appeared on the forms. Investigators seized from his clinic a master template and copies of blank forms with names and signatures of physicians. Rocco was sentenced to pay investigative cost restitution to BWC in the amount of $16,762.

Natoya Finley, dba Close to Home Child Development Center, of Cleveland, Ohio
Finley and Rebecca Barbee-Whitt, co-owner of the child care center, were operating the center without workers ‘compensation coverage. The pair ignored requests from BWC investigators to reinstate the policy. Finley entered into a payment plan July 24 after she was charged with four counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors, in the Cleveland Municipal Court. She then withdrew her not guilty pleas and agreed to the Selective Intervention Program. She is required to report monthly compliance with the established payment plan. Barbee-Whitt has a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on the charges.

Thomas N. Jung, dba Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, of Lima, Ohio
Jung pleaded guilty Aug. 4 in Lima Municipal Court to three counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors. BWC’s Employer Fraud Team found Jung was operating his business, Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, with lapsed workers’ compensation coverage. Jung was previously investigated in 2012 for lapsed coverage and before bringing his policy into compliance. Jung’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2. He will not receive jail time if he brings his policy into good standing prior to sentencing.

Mark J. Cothern of Danville, Ohio
Cothern pleaded guilty Aug. 11 in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud.  BWC’s investigation, which involved surveillance and multiple undercover operations, found that Cothern had worked at the Scoreboard Drive-in performing various duties while receiving temporary total benefits. Cothern was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for three years of community control, obtain and maintain full-time employment and repay restitution in the amount of $9,406.46.

Alfred Bowlson of Toledo, Ohio
Bowlson pleaded guilty Aug. 29 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. Bowlson reported wages for employment to the State of Ohio for his work as a maintenance person in various apartment complexes in the Toledo area while receiving BWC disability. He was also receiving vocational rehabilitation and indicated he was discouraged at being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Bowlson was sentenced to non-reporting community control for five years and ordered to pay restitution of $18,501.46 to the BWC. He will serve 11 months in prison if he violates these terms.

Elton Rista, dba ED & R Dining Services, of Avon Lake, Ohio
Rista, owner and operator of Ed & R Dining Services, pleaded guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply Aug. 18. BWC investigators found Rista was operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage between June 2011 and August 2015. A Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge sentenced Rista to 90 days in jail (suspended) and two years of non-reporting community control. He must also pay restitution of $9,478, return to compliance with workers’ compensation laws, and pay court costs.

Shardette Nyarko of Columbus, Ohio
Nyarko pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received an allegation that Nyarko may have filed false BWC claims. The investigation found Nyarko filed three false claims in order to receive BWC benefits. Nyarko filed the claims stating she was injured at work, when in fact, she was not employed at the time of the alleged injuries. A judge fined her $100, then suspended the fine.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Motivation equals success

By Jim Landon, RN, and Mukesh Kumar Singh, CFE, LLM, MBA, BWC Compliance & Performance Management

In any workers’ compensation claim, motivation is always a key factor in not only the rehabilitation of the injured worker but for a successful return to work.

While this holds true in any industrial injury claim, it’s particularly true for catastrophic injuries that result in an amputation. When an injured worker suffers an amputation injury, not only are they faced with physical hurdles to overcome but also the challenge of regaining their self-esteem.

Obtainable goals, collaboration
Injured workers who suffer an amputation must learn to adapt both physically and mentally to return to a state of normalcy post-injury. Without motivation and obtainable goals, the injured worker will quite often ultimately fail. However, for an injured worker to be motivated it is crucial they have a strong support system. This system should consist of a positive collaboration between family members, the employer, providers, as well as BWC and the managed care organization (MCO) for ultimate success.

A key to this success is fitting the injured worker with the correct prosthesis as soon as he or she is medically stable to do so. The philosophy of this is well proven. There is only a limited window of opportunity in sustaining the motivation factor for the injured worker before frustration and poor self-esteem set in. If this does not occur, a successful return-to-work and the return to a normal life are unlikely.

The process of fitting the injured worker with the correct prosthesis follows a very simple logic. In choosing the proper device it need not be high tech or low tech, but the right tech.  The choice should be fitting a device that provides optimal function and gives the injured worker the best chance of not only returning to gainful employment but to a pre-injury quality of life.

Support + motivation = success
We must remember that behind every claim number is a person that is more than likely going through the worst period of their life, and they need collaborative support. Support provides motivation.  Motivation equals success.

We saw this recently when we participated with Ryan Nagy, an injured Middleburg Heights police officer, in the Wounded Heroes’ Trek of Hope. Together, we trekked the Annapurna circuit in Nepal.

Ryan’s successful return to work and a normal life following his above-the-knee amputation is a testament to teamwork along with BWC and finding ability in disability with a courageous attitude. His motivation, goal setting, collaboration and a strong support system at home and at work made the difference. Learn more about Ryan’s story by viewing this video.

Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Ohio man who kept on truckin’ convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Madison County truck driver who claimed he was permanently disabled from a work injury in 1999 pleaded guilty Wednesday to workers’ compensation fraud after investigators discovered him driving a truck again for another employer.

Michael Humble, 48, must pay $3,834 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), according to his sentence Wednesday in a Franklin County courtroom. A judge also sentenced Humble to one day in jail, suspended, for the first-degree misdemeanor.

Acting on a tip, BWC’s special investigations department discovered Humble driving a truck in August 2015 for an exterior siding and roofing company while still collecting Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits.

Humble’s restitution is based on a time period that investigators proved he was working, not on total benefits received since his date of injury.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.