Happy New Year… Reflecting on the past… Focusing on the Future

By Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

AbeAltarawnehFor most, the end of a year and beginning of a new one serves for reflection on the past year and resolution for a better oncoming year. Last month (December) I had the privilege of presenting to the BWC Board of Directors on the Division of Safety and Hygiene (DSH) Operations and Activities for Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1st, 2014 to June 30th, 2015).

Needless to say, last year was very busy in terms of our continuing work to expand and initiate existing and new programs. With the BWC “Another Billion Back” initiative, the agency renewed its commitment to safety:

  • Launching the BWC Occupational Safety and Health Research Program;
  • Pledging $15 million each year in Safety Intervention Grants for FY2016 and FY2017;
  • Funding Fire Fighter I training for over 1,200 fire fighters;
  • Designing safety curricula to improve safety for younger workers in the skilled trades;
  • Expanding the Ohio Safety Innovations Competition;
  • Expanding the Safety Councils Program focus to include health and wellness.

19,000 employers served
All in all, close to 19,000 employers in Ohio utilized one or more of our services and programs during FY2015. To put this number in perspective, we worked with a little over 12,000 employers in FY2009.

Accounting for the value of prevention is an elusive undertaking. After all, how does one account for what hasn’t happened because of prevention? Here in Ohio, we have shown that directing resources into prevention does work, is worth doing, and we backed our words with actions to protect Ohio’s most valuable asset; its workforce.

Expansion of programs and services
Expanding our safety programs and services over the past few years has reflected on the number of injuries that register in our system, which went down by about 21 percent, while the reported payroll in our system has grown by about 12 percent during the same period. In 2012, we partnered with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) in Ohio. Since then, we and the BLS have reported SOII results for calendar years 2012-2014. SOII’s results also reflect our efforts in prevention with year after year decreases in injury severities and rates that are lower than the nation and Ohio’s neighboring states. As occupational safety and health practitioners we are elated by the fact that occupational injuries have been decreasing across the nation, and we are proud that the decreases in Ohio have surpassed those observed in the rest of the nation.

Last November, as the SOII results came out, Administrator Buehrer asked if I have an explanation of why the SOII results in Ohio are better than the rest of the nation and our neighboring states? I was at a loss for words at the time, because I really felt that I needed to pinpoint scientific reasons that lead to solid conclusions such as “Because we did this and this and this…, we ended up with this and this and this…” The Administrator knew very well the level of complexity involved in his question, and he understood my loss for solid answers. However, soon after, I realized the answer doesn’t require complex analyses of data and variables that cross time and geography. Rather, it rests in what we do for safety in Ohio with diligence and much pride, which most other states do not do.

From Safety Councils, to Safety Congress, to Safety Intervention Grants, to Training and Education Services, to Research, to partnerships with stakeholders, to on-site field consultations, we provide a unique, multi-level, participatory of safety programs and loss prevention services that are unparalleled throughout the nation. These offerings provide options for employers and their workers to pick and choose the most suitable for their operations and needs. Additionally, these multi-level options are accessible across the state throughout the year, making employers and workers participation easier at anytime.

Furthermore, BWC provides employers the option to participate in several rebate programs that have various safety program elements allowing these employers to improve their loss prevention efforts and consequently control their risks and can earn stackable rebates that reach up to 14% of their premiums. These programs include the Industry Specific Safety Program, the Drug-Free Safety Program, and the Safety Councils program.

Investing in the future
As we look to the future, we realize that our work is only beginning because we must continue to improve the quality and reach of our existing safety programs and services to live up to the expectations of our customers and meet the challenges of an ever changing world. To improve our effectiveness in reaching and working with more customers, we are working on equipping our field consultants with better mobile technology software and hardware. Through this effort, our consultants will spend much less time on non-value adding activities, which will be translated in their ability to spend more time working with their customers and attending to new ones. We also intend to launch a new fellowship program that will provide opportunities to university graduates to have formal and robust training in the professional fields of occupational safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics.

Jonas Salk once said “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”  I look forward to the opportunities 2016 will bring…

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