Be safe up there: March is Ladder Safety Month

By Gregory Williams, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

A lot happens in March – the luck of the Irish, NCAA championship basketball, the first day of spring and Ladder Safety Month. OK, maybe that last one isn’t as well known, but it’s important.

Whether on the job or at home, many of us come across ladders. We use them to hang up and take down Christmas lights, clean out gutters, change light bulbs and fix things at work and at home. Well, we should be using ladders for these activities. I said should because so many people are tempted to grab the nearest chair, stool or box to get that extra boost when trying to reach something.

We’ve all seen viral “fail” videos of chairs slipping out from underneath someone. Many are able to dust themselves off and get back to work, but what about those who fall and don’t get up? What about those who break an arm, suffer concussions, or even worse, are killed because of a fall that seems so insignificant? This is why ladder safety is so important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 43 percent of fatal falls involve a ladder and 28 percent of fatal falls involving a ladder happened at heights of 6 to 10 feet. We often think it will take a far greater fall to be a fatality, but this just isn’t true. There is no safe fall.

So how do you keep yourself and those around you safe when using ladders this year? First, use a ladder to reach things instead of a chair, table or box. Always be sure to use the right ladder for the situation. Do not use a step ladder when it’s leaned up against a house; this is a job for extension ladders. Use a ladder that has the proper height. If you’re standing on the top rung, the ladder is too short, and it’s time to go get a taller one. And always make sure you use a ladder that is able to support the weight you will put on it.

Second, it’s important to set up the ladder properly. For extension ladders, ensure the base is on stable, level ground and have someone hold the base while you ascend. Follow the 4-1 ratio. This means for every 4 feet of ladder length you need to place the ladder a foot away from the surface it’s leaning against. Make sure to properly lock step ladders in place before ascending.

Third and finally, make sure you keep yourself between the sides of the ladder at all times. Never overreach when using a ladder. It may take you more time to climb down and move the ladder, but it will be worth it.

Don’t leave ladder safety up to luck. Whether working at 2 feet or 20 feet, always remember the rules while working on ladders. Only use them in the proper conditions, using the right ladder for the job, and stay as close to the ladder as possible while you work. It could be the difference between life and death.

See additional resources:

Coping with pain

‘Visualize your way out of it,’ psychologist tells work comp audience

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

There’s another way to deal with chronic pain that doesn’t involve medications or surgery, a psychologist told an audience Friday at the 2017 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it’s not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, the techniques are rather simple, said Michael Coupland, medical director for Integrated Medical Case Solutions in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely accepted form of psychotherapy that is based on the cognitive model: the way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself.

Coupland explained that we can condition our brains to control pain or banish it from our consciousness. But it takes practice, a daily repetition of mantras, deep breathing techniques, meditation and other mindfulness methods for it to take root and stick.

Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain can reorganize or rewire itself, both physically and functionally, throughout your life in response to your environment, behavior, thinking and emotions.

“Exercise your neurons, visualize your way out of this,” he said. “I tell my patients, ‘Whether you believe in this or not, just humor me and do this every day for eight weeks.’ These techniques help stand down the body’s stress-arousal system.”

Coupland admitted it’s tough for most patients to accept this approach. Mindfulness, a state of active, open awareness of the present moment, and meditation are about “letting go,” but the American educational system teaches us to “hold on” to everything we learn.

Coupland shared with the audience a book he authored in the style of Dr. Seuss that illustrates the simplicity and effectiveness of CBT. It’s titled, “Up Pain, Down Pain, Good Brain, Bad Brain,” and can be found for free here.

For more on Coupland and his work, visit www.icms.us or www.cope-with-pain.com.

‘Wired for addiction’

Addiction specialist addresses work comp health symposium

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

Many believe drug addicts are weak-willed people of diminished moral character who choose drugs, getting high and even criminal behavior over a proper, law-abiding life.

And they would be wrong, a longtime psychiatrist and addiction specialist said Friday morning at the 2017 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

“Addiction is not about the drugs or the behavior, it’s all about the brain,” said Dr. Susan K. Blank, co-founder and chief medical officer for The Atlanta Healing Center, an outpatient treatment recovery program. “This is a genetically inherited brain disease.”

Blank, speaking to a capacity audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, spoke for an hour on the topic, “The Perfect Storm: Pathophysiology of Controlled Substance Misuse and Addiction.” Her presentation was the first continuing education session on the final day of the two-day symposium for health care professionals.

Blank explained there are three key forces behind addiction, and choice has little, if anything, to do with it. They include:

  • Genetics. Our brains are hardwired for addiction because of our genes. Some of us inherit malfunctioning “dopamine feedback loops.” When we experience pleasure, whether from food, drugs or sex, it’s because our brains are releasing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. In addicts, that feedback mechanism doesn’t shut down and they just want more and more, regardless of the consequences. “It’s never enough,” Blank said. This is particularly hard to overcome if the addiction started in one’s youth. That’s because drug and alcohol abuse can damage the prefrontal cortex, our brain’s impulse-control center, which is still developing into our mid 20s.

Worried your children might be future addicts? Look for the thrill-seeking child who thrives on adrenaline, the child who’s the first to take a dare. These are behaviors that demonstrate he or she is seeking a dopamine release, Blank said.

  • Exposure. Growing up around addicts increases the likelihood of addiction.
  • Environment. There must be an environmental trigger or stressor – loss of a job or loved one, for instance – that keeps the addiction cycle going.

“You have to have all three legs of that stool for addiction to manifest itself in your life,” said Blank, who is also president of the Georgia Society of Addiction Medicine. Genes alone won’t doom you.

Addictions often start through prescription drugs, she said, and can’t stop without outside help. They lead to brain changes that can’t be undone. “Our rational brain is gone.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States in recent years, fueled by powerful opioids, heroin especially. Ohio is the nation’s overdose death capital, with 3,050 OD deaths in 2015, or more than eight per day, according to state-by-state statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Blank noted that addictions aren’t limited to painkillers and street drugs, of course. People can be addicted to sugar, sex, tobacco and other dopamine triggers, too. It’s all about the dopamine. (Surprising fact to nonsmokers: “Nicotine is better than food, sex and morphine,” Blank said.)

Blank provided a number of sobering facts and statistics, including this one: “This is a chronic disease and there is no cure.”

But there is hope, she said. Addictions can be managed, and many addicts go on to live long, productive and healthy lives. Nationwide, opioid prescriptions are falling and there’s a growing awareness and understanding that addiction is a disease.

She concluded her remarks with a warning: “If you can’t escape addiction, choose yours carefully.”

The health symposium concluded Friday. It was held in conjunction with the 2017 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s annual safety, health and workers’ compensation conference.

Comprehensive care for injured workers, innovative employers highlight busy day 2 at #OSC17 and #BWCmhs, much more to come

Welcome back to the Columbus Convention Center, home of the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo and the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium!

We have a lot in store before we bid farewell this afternoon but first, here’s a rundown of yesterday’s activities.

The second day of OSC17 was the first day of the Medical & Health Symposium. This is the second year of the symposium, which filled to capacity weeks ago. BWC sponsors this conference for health-care professionals who treat Ohio injured workers to hear from leading national and state experts. This year, our theme is “Comprehensive care for the injured worker.”

BWC Medical Director Dr. Stephen Woods welcomed participants and kicked off the event. The day featured several intriguing sessions on various topics related to the care of injured workers. One session covered how the aging workforce challenges the workers’ comp industry. Read a detailed blog on that topic here.

Over at OSC17, we got the day started with the Safety Innovation Awards. ICP Adhesives from the Akron area took first place, and Holloway, Henderson & Martin LLC of Pickerington snagged the People’s Choice Award.

All of the finalists were impressive!  Here’s the final list of award winners along with links to videos highlighting their innovations:

  • 1st place ($6,000 award): ICP Adhesives and Sealants, Norton (Video )
  • 2nd place ($4,000 award): C&K Industrial Services Inc., Cleveland (Video)
  • 3rd place ($3,000 award): Holloway, Henderson & Martin LLC, Pickerington (Video)
  • Honorable Mention ($1,500 award): Suburban Steel Supply Company, Gahanna (Video)
  • Honorable Mention ($1,500 award): Ames Arboreal Group, Columbus (Video)

And our very own Dr. Abe Tarawneh, superintendent of the BWC Division of Safety and Hygiene delivered a presentation on the role of safety leaders in building and executing strategic direction for occupational safety and health programs. Abe advised attendees that the mission of a safety leader is simple: elevate safety as a core value for the organization. If it is not a core value, make it one.

We’re not done yet! Our final day will feature more informative sessions at OSC and the symposium.

See OSC17 and symposium schedules here, in the event guide or on the mobile app. Follow @OhioBWC on Twitter and keep an eye on hashtags #OSC17 and
#BWCmhs for coverage.

Stay tuned for a wrap of the day as we bring the curtain down on another successful OSC17 and M&HS.

Aging workforce challenges work comp industry

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

Americans are living longer and they’re working longer, which presents a particular set of health care challenges for the injured worker, as well as economic challenges for the workers’ compensation industry, a longtime nurse and work comp veteran said Thursday morning at the 2017 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

“Many of us don’t want to retire or we can’t retire, and that’s changing how we look at individuals in the workforce before they have an injury and how we manage their care after an injury,” said Kevin T. Glennon, vice president of clinical services for One Call Care Management in Jacksonville, Florida.

Glennon, speaking to a capacity audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, spoke for roughly 50 minutes on the topic, “Managing the Changing Needs of the Aging Injured Worker.” The session was one of 13 continuing education classes offered at the two-day symposium for health care professionals. The symposium continues Friday in conjunction with the 2017 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation annual safety, health and workers’ compensation conference.

Glennon pointed to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that older workers are less likely to get injured on the job, but when they do, it’s almost always worse than when a younger person is injured.

“When a 25-year-old worker falls on the job, she might get a bruise, but for a 75-year-old worker, it’s a broken hip,” he said.

While applauding people who want to work past the typical retirement age, Glennon noted the risks for doing so. Older workers typically have decreasing strength, endurance and reflexes, as well as diminished vision, hearing and mental acuity. And when injured, their recovery might be compromised by other existing health problems, such as diabetes, as well as medications that are contraindicated and an increasing susceptibility to infectious diseases.

The list goes on. All of which becomes even more complicated and costly if injured, aging workers have no family at home to help with their recovery.

Glennon told the audience to be proactive in managing work comp cases involving the elderly, even for cases where the worker was injured decades ago.

“I have one patient who is 80 who was injured at 22,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that when you have these older injuries, check up on these patients at least once a year.”

In any case involving the elderly, Glennon said to make sure the patient’s needs are being met, that they’re receiving proper vaccinations and routine medical checkups. Look for red flags —untreated wounds, recent ER visits — that could lead to a downward spiral of health problems. “And whatever we can do to keep the respiratory system healthy is money well spent,” he said.

Glennon added that technology, while expensive, can be more cost effective in the long run for the aging patient. Self-operated lifts to help the patient get out of bed, for example, or a wheelchair that helps a patient stand upright is likely cheaper than the costs of a home health aide over months and years.

As he wrapped up his presentation, Glennon said the aging workforce has caused employers to adjust their approach to risk management and workplace health and safety. Today the focus is on wellness and prevention — smoking cessation and weight management, for example — as well as modifying job tasks to better suit the worker.

The power of a time change: plan now to ease the transition

The Ohio Safety Congress and Expo just happens to fall right before the switch to Daylight Savings Time (DST) this year. As we gather to raise awareness and knowledge of workplace safety, now is the perfect time to review the how the time change impacts us on the job.

The loss of just one hour of sleep effects workplaces more than you may have considered. In fact, many research institutions and universities have conducted studies in this area.

Interesting facts:

  • There is a 5.7-percent increase in workplace and occupational accidents and a 68-percent increase in the severity of those accidents on the Monday following DST change in March.
  • There is a 17-percent increase in fatal traffic crashes on the Monday following DST change in March.
  • There is a 5-percent increase in the heart attack rate in the first three weekdays following DST change in March.
  • However, there’s no significant increase in accidents or heart attacks during switch back to standard time in the fall. One-hour of additional sleep is a good thing.

Sleep deprivation is the most commonly cited cause for these statistics. DST results in an average decrease in sleep of 40 minutes which contributes to “sleep debt”.  Lack of sleep causes attention levels to drop. Loss of sleep disturbs sleep patterns and disrupts a person’s bio-rhythm.

Interesting note – Arizona and Hawaii do not participate in DST.

So while we will soon bask in the glow of more daylight and look forward to warmer weather that’s just around the corner, we should also prepare in advance of Sunday’s time change.

What can do to ease the transition to DST?

  • Begin eating dinner and going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier several days prior to the time change.
  • Increase exercise (particularly outdoor exercise) on Sunday morning following the start of DST. A brisk walk on Sunday morning will stimulate serotonin release in the brain.
  • Increase exposure to natural sunlight for at least one to two hours. High dose artificial lighting can help too but is not as effective as natural sunlight.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the days just prior and after DST change. These can contribute to disruption in sleep patterns.

A positive takeaway to the start of DST is the reminder to check our homes for safety concerns such as replacing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, checking emergency supply kits to ensure they’re properly stocked, and surveying your home for hazardous materials that can be properly disposed of.

References:

Join us today! OSC17 and Medical & Health Symposium

Each year, thousands of attendees reap the benefits of the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo and 2017 is off to a great start with more than 8,000 pre-registered.

It was a busy first day at #OSC17! Eighty-five sessions were held and thousands visited the Expo Marketplace.

Speakers ranged from Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, who kicked off OSC at the opening session, to Kristen Kulinowski, Board Member of the US Chemical Safety Board presenting on the hidden hazards of hot work. In the afternoon general session, Dr. Dale Hall moved the audience to a standing ovation as he shared his inspiring personal story of paralysis and rehabilitation.

There’s a lot more in store for our record-breaking crowd with today’s kickoff of the second annual Medical & Health Symposium.

The symposium is geared toward health-care professionals and features nationally-renowned speakers from Ohio and around the United States with a focus on comprehensive care for injured workers.

See OSC17 and symposium schedules here, in the event guide or on the mobile app. Stay tuned to @OhioBWC on Twitter and keep an eye on hashtags #OSC17 and #BWCmhs for coverage.

Here’s a look back at some of yesterday’s activities in tweets.

Do you know the no-zone?

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

America’s roadways can be hazardous places. Our treks to and from work, the grocery store and the kids’ soccer practice can turn tragic on icy or wet roads, or when we encounter a distracted or intoxicated driver.

In fact, the National Safety Council reported a 6 percent jump in vehicle fatalities in 2016 following a 7 percent increase in 2015. While we already understand the need for caution and patience behind the wheel, these stats are useful reminders that can help quell complacency every time we pull out of the driveway.

But have you considered the added danger to those who spend their entire workday on the road; those whose office is the cab of a tractor trailer? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports transportation incidents lead to the most fatal work injuries in 2015, accounting for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries. Many of those incidents involve truck drivers hauling and delivering the goods we use every day. They must take every precaution because the very nature of their work places them at a high risk of injury or worse as they go about their work day.

One thing we can do to help keep them, and all of us who share the road with them, safe is by taking a little walk in their shoes – or literally a sit in their seat. Have you considered that the view from the driver’s seat in a delivery truck is much different than the view from our sedans or even pickup trucks; and dramatically different from the cabin of a tractor trailer? In fact, a perfectly attentive and cautious truck driver could have no idea you’re driving right next to them no matter how many times he checks his mirrors.

Don’t believe it? Check out this photo taken from the cab of the YRC Freight/Ohio State Highway Patrol No-Zone demonstration that’s set up today in the expo marketplace at BWC’s Ohio Safety Congress and Expo.

Now here’s a shot from the outside of the truck.

Yep, that car was there the whole time but it’s parked in the no-zone.

That’s the purpose of the no-zone demo – to give the public the opportunity to actually sit in the driver seat of a semi-tractor trailer to learn about blind spots and how they can drive more safely around the many commercial vehicles they encounter daily.

“The danger of the no-zone is that the truck driver can hit you and not even know it until he feels the collision,” said Mike St. Clair, Safety Team Manager for YRC Freight.

So what is the best thing to do when you find yourself in the no-zone?

Mike’s advice is simple: get out of the no-zone by getting around the truck.

“Your best option is to pass trucks in a safe manner,” Mike said.

Are you attending Safety Congress this week? Stop by the no-zone demo at booth 136 so you know the no-zone.

While you’re there, check out everything else Safety Congress has to offer. We’re at the Greater Columbus Convention Center through Friday.

You will also be able to catch the no-zone demo at the Ohio State Fair this summer.

It’s here! Knowledge is key at OSC

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

In a previous blog post I said … better knowledge is the single common denominator for improving lives. It’s an adage – some might even call it a motto – which I believe in quite strongly.

Bringing knowledge to Ohio’s workforce, employers, safety professionals, and healthcare providers is also the driving force behind our annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, which opens today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Today through Friday we will welcome thousands of attendees who are seeking the know-how to help them make their workplaces safer and to protect the health and well-being of their workers. The goal of OSC17 is also to make them think of their own safety adages or mottos – their rules to live by so to speak.

We’re looking to have this conversation via hundreds of educational sessions and face-to-face interactions with visitors this week. Our hope is to make this the beginning of an ongoing dialog with employers to further our common goal of making Ohio’s workplaces the safest in the nation.

Attendees can also learn more about hundreds of cutting-edge products and services in the OSC17 Expo Marketplace. They may also find inspiration from the five employers showcasing their innovative solutions to safety issues in our Safety Innovation Awards section of the expo. In the middle of the Expo, you can find our BWC booth to answer all your safety, risk management, and workers’ compensation questions.

I see first-hand the planning and preparation that goes into this event every year by our staff as well as the commitment of our planning committees, guest speakers and expo vendors. I truly appreciate these efforts and the benefits they bring for our attendees.

While you’re at OSC17, take some time to explore, discover and share your experience on social media using hashtag #OSC17. Even more important, I hope you take the knowledge you gain at OSC17 back to your organization and use it to keep your colleagues and yourself safe and healthy at work and at home.

I hope you enjoy your experience!

Man’s claim of mistaken identity fools no one; ordered to pay $22K to BWC

Tuesday a busy day in court for BWC with 4 fraud convictions

A Knox County man caught scamming the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and trying to lie his way out of it was ordered to reimburse the agency $22,578 Tuesday and to pay $1,000 of it within six months or spend six months in jail.

“If we’re knocking on your door with a fraud allegation, lying won’t help your case,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “We are determined to stop fraud when we find it and to return any ill-gotten resources to their rightful purpose — taking care of injured workers and increasing workplace safety in this state.”

In one of four BWC court cases Tuesday, Scott Wells, 40, pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas — but not before blaming his cousin for the trouble he had gotten into.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Wells had been working as a truck driver while receiving BWC benefits when his name popped up in a state database showing his semi tractor-trailer had been stopped for an inspection by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. When confronted by investigators, Wells claimed it was a case of mistaken identity. He told agents his cousin had needed a job but didn’t have a commercial driver’s license, so he lent his license to his cousin and that’s who was stopped by PUCO in November 2013.

Wells’ cousin would not corroborate his story, however, nor would the trucking company and employment records.

In other fraud convictions Tuesday, all in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas:

matthew-buckman-booking-photoMatthew Buckman of Columbus pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators found that he worked for two different employers at various times since 2013 while receiving injured workers’ benefits. Among his jobs, he worked as a full-time appliance installer, with no known physical limitations, from Feb. 14, 2014 to March 16, 2015. A judge sentenced Buckman to 60 days in jail, suspended, and ordered him to pay $2,710 in restitution to BWC.

enriquetta-valentine-booking-photoEnriquetta Valentine of Columbus was sentenced to one year of community control and ordered to pay $1,129 in restitution to BWC after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits.

Beverly J. Ritchie of Tiffin in northwest Ohio pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge ordered her to pay $5,340 in restitution, which she paid immediately.

In another recent fraud case, a Cleveland-area man on Feb. 23 was ordered to pay $28,669 in court costs and restitution to BWC after investigators found him working as a hotel maintenance engineer while receiving temporary total disability benefits from July 2, 2014 through Nov. 29, 2015.

davisA Franklin County judge also sentenced Willie A. Davis Jr., 58, of Bedford, to five years of community control and a suspended jail sentence of one year. Davis pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud in January.

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