Beat the heat of the “Dog Days of Summer”

By Jeff Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

We know that the “dog days of summer” are typically the hottest, most humid days of the year.  But did you ever wonder how they got their name?

According to the Farmers’ Almanac[1], the name originated during ancient Roman times.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the star Sirius prominently occupies the same region of the sky as the Sun in late summer.  Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog.  The Romans believed this bright star added to the sun’s heat during the time when Sirius is most visible (roughly July 3 – August 11); hence the “dog days” of summer.

While the origin of the name is rooted in mythology, the truth is that when sweltering weather arrives, the dangers of heat-related illnesses are very real.  When the combination of environmental conditions [temperature + humidity + air movement]and physical exertion result in your body producing more heat that it can release through sweating and respiration, your core temperature can rise to unsafe and unhealthy levels.  Symptoms can range from mild (Heat Exhaustion) to life-threatening (Heat Stroke).  It doesn’t matter if you’re in your backyard, on the playing field or at work, identifying a potential heat stress situation and taking prompt action is the key.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the University of Washington both have excellent resources for identifying and treating heat illnesses.

OSHA Heat Safety ToolPreparing yourself for the heat is an often overlooked step.  Watching the weather forecast, getting enough rest, being properly hydrated, avoiding caffeine & alcohol and dressing appropriately are all steps that minimize the risk of developing a heat illness.  Scheduling strenuous activities earlier in the day can reduce your risk as well.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a Heat Safety Tool app that calculates the heat index for your location and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level for outdoor activity. Then, with a simple “click,” you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect yourself from heat-related illness.

While a dog may be man’s best friend, having human companions watching out for each other during hot weather is important, too.  Being alert to the signs & symptoms of heat illness in family members, teammates and co-workers, and checking on vulnerable friends and neighbors, like the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, are all steps we can take to keep everyone safe in the heat.

Heat Safety Pic 2And finally, take a tip from our canine friends: when it gets too hot, take a big drink of water and find a cool spot to rest.

 

[1] Why Are They Called “Dog Days” of Summer? (2015)   Retrieved 9 June 2016 from Farmers’ Almanac online.

Stand ready to respond

tomorrow starts today graphicBy Mark Leung, Division of Safety & Hygiene Intern

Tomorrow starts today.

These are the words my high school music teacher ingrained into my head. At the time, it was one of the most annoying phrases I heard every day as he used it to encourage practicing our music for upcoming events. Every time he mentioned it, I was one of the many to roll my eyes at him.  He stressed the need to put in the work today, so that we are ready for tomorrow. Little did I know that this phrase would carry on with me as a personal philosophy through college and into my professional career. Preparing to be prepared will put you ahead in all aspects of life. This is especially true when it comes to safety, and it is not something to roll your eyes over.

Preparing and planning today will make a significant difference if the unexpected happens tomorrow. Whether it is a medical emergency, a natural disaster, or even a slip and fall, knowing what to do can be the difference between life and death. Just knowing that something could happen is not enough. We also need to know what to do if it does. In order to accomplish this, assess potential risks and have emergency action plans in place. Emergency drills should be practiced at work, school and home.

It is a good idea to have a plan and to train in emergency response. This may include training in CPR/AED, first aid, and even workplace violence. Training ensures we have the skills and confidence needed to respond quickly in emergencies and not be deer in headlights. When it comes to medical emergencies, proper interventions can be provided if we know what to do. Hesitation may cost us seconds, but every second counts.

National Safety Month serves as a reminder to be mindful of these safety practices. These principles will benefit you, your family and or your coworkers when the unexpected arises. Every ounce of investment into preparation has the potential to save lives. Are you ready to respond? Remember, tomorrow starts today!

              nsm2016

Ohio BWC investigative unit nets 5 convictions in May

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation landed five convictions in May of individuals caught cheating the workers’ compensation system or deceptively obtaining prescription narcotics.

Those convicted included one woman who was cashing in on a dead man’s injured worker’s benefits, another who falsely claimed she was poisoned at work, two men who were found working while receiving BWC benefits and another who hoodwinked two physicians into writing overlapping prescriptions for painkillers.

“Investigating and putting an end to fraud helps protect the benefits of injured workers and keep employers’ premiums down,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “That’s why BWC is so proactive in pursuing all employers, medical providers, workers and others who are committing fraud.”

The BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) has netted 45 convictions so far this year. May’s convictions include:

Darlean McCurdy (Hamilton County) – McCurdy pleaded guilty May 10 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators photographed her using a deceased BWC claimant’s EBT card to withdraw cash from several ATMs.

A Hamilton County common pleas court judge on May 24 ordered McCurdy to perform 100 hours of community service, serve five years probation and repay the BWC $7,321.16, plus $2,265 in investigative costs. She was also sentenced to a year in prison but only if she violates her parole.

Jennifer Martin (Morrow County) – Martin filed for BWC benefits after claiming to police someone at work poisoned her by putting bug spray in her beverage. A police investigation found her claim to be false.

Martin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 10 in Mason Municipal Court. A judge sentenced her to one year probation and ordered her to repay the BWC $2,143.50 for its investigation and pay court costs of $420. The judge also sentenced her to 180 days in jail, which he then suspended.

James Calvey (Cuyahoga County) — Calvey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 17 after investigators filmed him working as a tow truck driver while receiving Temporary Total Disability Benefits from the BWC. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Calvey to 10 days in jail, to be served in August, and fined him $100.

Carol Hoover (Pike County) – Hoover pleaded guilty May 10 in Clark County Common Pleas Court to one count of deception to obtain a dangerous drug, a felony of the fifth degree. She was sentenced June 1 to two years of community control and fined $1,000.

BWC investigators became suspicious after reviewing records indicating Hoover received narcotic prescriptions with overlapping fill dates from two different physicians. When interviewed, the physicians said they felt deceived and would not have prescribed the narcotics had they been aware of the other prescribing physician.

Spiro Frangos (Mahoning County) — Frangos pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, on May 9, after investigators found him working as a laborer while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Frangos to two years of community control.

National Safety Month: Stand ready to respond!

nsm2016The National Safety Council (NSC) is using June to remind the workforce about areas of safety we might take for granted. Until June 12 they are promoting “Stand Ready to Respond” that emphasizes being prepared at your workplace with a first aid program.

BWC consultants remind employers and employees when they are doing on-site visits to review their first aid kits and plans on a regular basis so that when they are needed they are ready to use.

Here is a list of items OSHA suggests you have for your first aid kit.

  • A box of adhesive bandages
  • Wound cleaning agent
  • Gauze pads (at least 4 by 4 inches)
  • Two large gauze pads (at least 8 by 10 inches)
  • One gauze roller bandage
  • Two triangular bandages
  • Scissors
  • At least one blanket
  • Tweezers
  • Adhesive tape
  • Two elastic wraps
  • A splint
  • Resuscitation equipment (such as resuscitation bag, or airway or pocket mask)
  • Directions for requesting emergency assistance

The Red Cross also offers many OSHA training opportunities for employees. Plus, they started a free membership program called Ready Rating. The program is designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. Members join for free to utilize the self-paced program that contains a 123-point self-assessment to reveal areas your workplace can use improvement. You can check it out at www.readyrating.org.

So take this week to make sure your workplace and everyone in it is Ready to Respond. You can schedule a consultation with a BWC Safety consultant to help assess your safety program by calling 1-866-569-7805.

Cincinnati-area woman falsely claims she was poisoned at work

A southwest Ohio woman lied when she claimed she was poisoned at work from someone putting bug spray in her drink, and now she must repay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for investigating her false claim.

Jennifer Martin, of the village of Morrow in Warren County, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of Workers’ Compensation fraud on May 10 in Mason Municipal Court. A judge sentenced her to one year probation and ordered her to repay the BWC $2,143.50 and pay court costs of $420. He also sentenced her to 180 days in jail, which he then suspended.

Martin was also charged with, and agreed to plead guilty to, filing a false police report with the Mason Police Department. A Mason police detective reported Martin to the BWC after investigating Martin’s claim of being poisoned. The detective’s investigation determined Martin was never poisoned or injured at work and she had filed a false police report.

Cincinnati woman took dead man’s injured worker’s benefits

A Cincinnati woman must perform 100 hours of community service and serve five years probation after pleading guilty last month to stealing a dead man’s workers’ compensation benefits.

Darlean McCurdy, 56, pleaded guilty May 10 in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas to one count of Workers’ Compensation Fraud, a fifth degree felony. At her sentencing May 24, a judge ordered her to repay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $7,321.16, plus investigative costs of $2,264.97. He also sentenced her to a year in prison but only if she violates her parole.

The Ohio BWC’s Special Investigation Department began looking at McCurdy after learning the BWC claimant entitled to the benefits died last year. Investigators obtained several photographs of McCurdy using the claimant’s EBT card to withdraw money at various ATM’s.

Harnessing data to measure duration of disability

Arnold HaasArnold Haas, Director, Performance Analytics

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation strive to be a world-class carrier of workers’ compensation insurance. But what does it mean to be world class, and how will we know whether we’re achieving that goal? One way is to listen to what others are saying about you.

I was recently copied on an email from Peter Rousmaniere to Ramona Tanabe, both national experts in the field of workers’ compensation. Peter is an “estimable industry consultant” (Michael Gavin, WorkCompCentral, 4/6/2016) with decades of experience in the industry, and Ramona is the Executive Vice President at the Workers Compensation Research Institute. And what did Peter have to say? “… the way BWC scores its MCOs on duration of disability … is probably the most sophisticated duration of disability measurement system in the country, addressing a host of issues not least of which is severity weighting. I recommend that WCRI has a hard look at the BWC system.”

High praise, indeed! What may be more amazing is that innovative measurement systems are nothing new to BWC. Shortly after the formation of the Health Partnership Program in 1997, Teresa Arms, who was heading our MCO Reporting Unit at the time, helped to design, develop and implement the Duration of Disability Measure (DoDM). It was a radical concept that set benchmarks for days absent that were calibrated both by injury and occupation. DoDM was used to measure MCO’s effectiveness for over a decade, and other insurers from around the country and as far away as Australia came to Columbus to take a closer look at how we did it.

But DoDM wasn’t without its flaws, the most significant of which was the fact that what happened after a claim was 15 months old never got measured. After years of using it and understanding more fully what behaviors it incented, BWC decided to up its game and produce something better. Something that built upon DoDM’s early successes and addressed some of its shortcomings. Something that would help push the Ohio system of workers’ compensation to a higher level. In 2012, the next chapter in disability duration measurement was developed by BWC’s Medical Services and Analytics sections in collaboration with BWC’s MCO partners.

mod graphicThat new chapter is actually a set of two performance measures, collectively called Measure of Disability (MoD).  The first piece measures duration of disability and the second measures medical costs after return to work. Between the two, fully 50 percent of MCOs’ compensation is at risk, so these are measures that are watched closely by all. They’re also included in the MCO Report Card – the very publication that prompted Peter Rousmaniere to inquire about these measures.  With each succeeding contract, BWC and the MCOs have agreed to implement enhancements that provide additional incentives for improved outcomes for injured workers and employers.

So what is MoD? Both the days absent and recent medical components measure claims against standards developed from our own historical data. Like DoDM before it, MoD standards take into consideration both the primary injury in each claim and the industry the injured worker is in, as these factors have been shown to significantly affect duration of disability and medical cost. But rather than simply comparing current outcomes to a singular benchmark, MoD standards are presented as a continuum that recognizes the fact that there can be significant differences in outcomes even for very similar injuries. For example, most people think of back injuries as being “really bad” and leading to lots of time off from work. You’d probably be surprised to learn that 40% of all construction industry claims with a lumbar sprain/strain miss no days from work at all, that 60% miss 3 days or less, and that 90% miss 33 days or less. Claims that are currently being managed by MCOs are measured against those historical distributions, and the better the actual outcomes the higher the score. The innovation Peter seemed most interested in is that scores among ‘more significant’ injuries are weighted more heavily than those among ‘minor’ ones. For example, cut fingers (883.0) are weighted at 1.12 or 1.23, depending on industry and whether the injury affects both hands, while traumatic amputation of the thumb (885.0) carries a weight of 47.86. Having a successful outcome in both cases is important, but a good outcome in a cut finger claim won’t help an MCO’s overall score nearly as much as a similarly good outcome in an amputation claim.

BWC could have rested on its laurels and continued to use DoDM to measure disability outcomes. World class players don’t rest – they improve. And we’re just getting started!