Go beyond resolutions with Better You, Better Ohio!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Now that we’re nearly a month into 2019, we’re curious how people are doing on their New Year’s resolutions.

Some folks may be following it to varying degrees, some may have abandoned theirs (no judgment here) and some may not have come up with theirs (hey, it isn’t like procrastination is illegal).

No matter which of these groups you fall in, our Better You, Better Ohio!™ health and wellness program for Ohio’s workforce may be an option for you. If you’re eligible, you’ll have access to:

  • Free health assessment and biometric screening.
  • Disease management and health coaching.
  • Monetary incentives for participating and more!

More than 5,000 people have already taken advantage of the program! Want to see if you’re eligible? Visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage to learn more about eligibility requirements and request to enroll.

Even if you’re not eligible to apply, ActiveHealth Management – our partner in offering the Better You, Better Ohio! program – has many free health and wellness resources. This includes items like a monthly newsletter and regularly scheduled webinars covering a variety of health and wellness topics.

If you’re already passionate about health and wellness, you could become a wellness champion in your workplace. We’ve also partnered with ActiveHealth to create a Wellness Champion Guide to assist in making your workplace healthier.

To bring this full circle, resolutions can be a way start down a path to health and wellness. Better You, Better Ohio! can help you make health and wellness a permanent mindset. Have questions about the program? Send an email to BWCBetterYouBetterOhio@bwc.state.oh.us.

Shoveling a roof???

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

That’s right, you read the title correctly – so it’s cold and wintery and the dreaded four-letter word, S-N-O-W, just hit most of Ohio hard.

So, what’s a person to do when the snow and ice keep coming and coming, and the precipitation is piling up on your roof? Well, I will tell you what you don’t do … don’t go up there. You know snow and ice is slippery – I know you know that – so stay off the roof.

I wish I did not have to discuss this one, but look on the internet yourself – all you need to do is a quick search, and you will see many incidents and injuries associated with … shoveling a roof … yep … I said it …

So, what can you do? The answer is to start before the weather turns bad. Be sure your roof and gutters are in good shape. Have a roofing contractor do an inspection of your roof if you have concerns and deal with issues immediately – don’t wait for bad weather.

If the snow and ice build up too much (most recommendations are more than 6-12 inches), consider investing in a roof rake (with rollers or bumpers so you don’t scrape the shingles) and a long extension handle and do the job from the ground.

But, when wielding a long metal pole and swinging it around – keep in mind the other “shocking” safety hazard of overhead power lines. Also, be careful of pulling a big heavy chunk of snow or ice onto your head (or any part of your body). I assume I don’t need to explain that one.

If doing it yourself isn’t possible, hire a professional to help. But use caution, some contractors are better than others (read this blog about contractors – safe at work / safe at home).

If you are a “professional” and you are hired to remove snow from your clients’ roof, be sure of a few things. One, you have a program for fall protection and fall prevention. Also, have the proper training for this hazardous task. Try to remove the snow while staying on the ground as detailed above. If that isn’t possible, make sure you are familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations for working at heights.

Finally, make sure you have proper protective equipment, such as warm layers of clothing, gloves and slip resistant boots or cleats.

Trucker kept truckin’ while collecting injured-worker benefits

Zanesville man convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Zanesville truck driver must pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) after agency investigators found him working for a living while collecting BWC disability benefits.

Douglas J. Krouskoupf, 53, pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced Krouskoupf to 180 days in jail, which he suspended on the condition Krouskoupf pay BWC $7,924 in restitution.

“We found Mr. Krouskoupf working for his brother’s sandblasting business on multiple occasions and that he was also driving a semi-truck while collecting BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our benefits are for people who suffer a workplace injury and can’t do their job. Mr. Krouskoupf clearly doesn’t fit into that category.”

In other news, BWC netted seven fraud or fraud-related convictions in December, bringing calendar year 2018’s total to 94. In order of most recent case, December convictions include:

Jason Dudas, Mentor, Ohio
Dudas pleaded guilty Dec. 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working as a handyman while receiving BWC benefits. A judge ordered Dudas to pay $5,073 in restitution and serve three years of non-reporting probation.

Gabriel Seda, Grafton, Ohio
Seda pleaded guilty Dec. 6 through a Bill of Information to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working as a landscaper while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Seda to reimburse BWC $33,960 and sentenced him to five years of probation in lieu of a year in prison.

John House, Chris Kraft and Lynn Howard, dba Old Crow Bar, Middletown, Ohio
House, Kraft and Howard, owners of the Old Crow Bar, each pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after BWC discovered they weren’t carrying workers’ compensation coverage on their business. A judge sentenced House to 10 days in jail (suspended) and fined him $200 and $90 in court costs. Kraft and Howard were both sentenced to one day in jail (suspended) and fined $100 and $90 in court costs.

Brian Lang, dba Outdoor Inspirations, Holland, Ohio
Lang pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of attempted failure to comply with the law Dec. 3 after BWC discovered him running a business without workers’ compensation coverage to protect his employees. A judge scheduled sentencing for Jan. 28 after Lang paid $5,304 toward the balance he owes BWC.

Beth Turner, dba Flashions Ltd, Springfield, Ohio
Turner pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to failure to comply, a minor misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Turner was fined $100 and court costs.

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

Tips for staying safe when winter weather hits

By Kristen Dickerson, Ph.D., BWC Health and Wellness Manager

While the snow and ice may be beautiful, driving and walking on both can be hazardous.

Many suffer bruises, broken bones or concussions from falling on ice and snow, and Ohio has been the deadliest state for winter car accidents in recent years according to an analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center.

The best way to prevent an accident is to stay inside, but if you do go out on the snow and ice, it’s important to proceed with caution and remember that preparation is key when it comes to preventing wintertime accidents.

To stay safe and avoid slip, fall and driving-related accidents from the snow and ice this winter, follow these tips.

Safe Stepping

  • Wear the proper footwear. You want to have shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles, and if you don’t, you should equip your footwear with traction cleats.
  • Walk like a penguin. It’s easy to picture and will help you remember how to walk safely on ice and snow. How do you walk like a penguin? Spread your feet out slightly to increase your center of gravity, take small steps, go slow and look where you’re Just like a penguin.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets and free of items when walking (like a penguin). The temptation to keep your hands warm by using your pockets is understandable, but you’ll decrease your center of gravity and balance. Our hands can help break falls, protecting our face and brains from traumatic injuries.
  • Maintain your walkways and stairs. It’s best to shovel snow off before it gets trampled and packed down. Throw snow far enough away from your walkways, so that when it melts, it doesn’t drain back onto your walkways and freeze into ice sheets. If your walkways and stairs have ice on them, try sprinkling the surface with rock salt, but be mindful that rock salt can damage lawns. Once the ice starts to melt, brush or shovel the remaining ice away.
  • Warm up and stretch. Shoveling snow is physical exertion and can be taxing if we aren’t quite in tip top shape. Prior to shoveling avoid caffeine and nicotine, as this only increases the work your body is doing. Also consider wearing mittens, as they keep your hands warmer to do the shared surface area of your fingers.

Safe Driving

  • Remove all snow and ice from your car. Before you leave your driveway, you should make sure your car is completely cleared of snow and ice – this includes your exterior mirrors, headlights, taillights, hood, trunk and roof. This will ensure your visibility is not blocked and prevents anything from blowing off while you’re driving and hitting another vehicle.
  • Plan ahead. Check the weather and get your car inspected before traveling long distances in bad weather. Make sure you have topped off fluids and check your tire pressure.
  • Keep a cold weather emergency kit in your trunk. The kit can include bagged salt or kitty litter for traction. Blankets, extra hand protection, bottles of water, flashlights, folding shovels, hard tack candy, flares, jumper cables, and a first aid kit are also good ideas.
  • Stay alert. Never check your phone while driving and always avoid distractions when you’re behind the wheel, especially when road conditions are bad.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Remember, applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Also, take time to slow down for stoplights and stop signs, as it can take longer to stop on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This margin of safety will provide the distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have anti-lock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.

No one can stop the onset of winter; however, by planning and keeping safety top-of-mind, you can be prepared for the hazards. For more safety tips from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and advice on preventing slips, trips, falls, overexertions and driving-related accidents, visit BeSafeOhio.com.

Workplace fatalities are so last century

By Bernard Silkowski, CSP, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

In the course of 20 days that ended on Jan. 14, six employees died on the job in central Ohio.

The news reports indicate that four suffered crushing injuries at three separate manufacturing sites and a loading dock, one fell off a ladder while replacing light fixtures in an office, and one was caught in machinery at a commercial car wash.

The fact that these six deaths occurred in such a short period of time in one part of the state serves to heighten attention to workplace safety. Plain and simple: No worker should die because of a workplace injury.  Sadly, 5,147 workers throughout the U.S. did in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation-related accidents account for more workplace deaths than any other injury causation. In the past year, Ohio workers also were buried in trenches, electrocuted, and struck by falling trees, lumber, and other objects. Others fell off roofs and walls, slid into an auger, and drowned when the equipment they were operating fell into water.  How could this happen?

We should be outraged because proven means to prevent workplace fatalities exist.

Going above and beyond compliance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations exist because they work. Employers should embrace them and treat them for what they are: minimum compliance requirements. Going above and beyond compliance reduces risk even more. Building safety into processes rather than treating it as an add-on or afterthought reinforces safety expectations and embeds it in the culture. In most cases the benefits go beyond improving safety to increasing quality and productivity as well as reducing workers’ compensation and other costs.

Public employers, this applies to you, too. In fact, injury rates are higher for public employers than private employers. Why? Work is still work and hazards are still hazards. Whether in the private sector or government the same principles of sound safety management apply.

But we trained the employee, you say. She didn’t follow the procedure. He didn’t use common sense. What were they thinking?

All employers have the duty to provide safe and healthful workplaces, and that starts with becoming intimately familiar with OSHA standards to learn the requirements that apply to their work activities. This duty goes beyond simply training employees and handing them personal protective equipment and written safety procedures. It also means managing the process to ensure employees understand the training, wear the PPE and follow the procedures. All the time. It means assigning tasks only to persons who are trained and qualified to perform the work safely.

Assess hazards and be proactive

Critical to all this is performing hazard assessments that identify potential hazards and determine the most appropriate measures to protect the workers. “What could possibly go wrong?” is a good question to ask, while paying particular attention to high-energy and high-consequence hazards such as struck-bys, caught-betweens, chemical exposures and electrical contacts. We all make mistakes and have bad days, so providing robust protection allows for those eventualities. The hierarchy of controls can guide every work planner in choosing effective means of protection.

Two other resources can help employers improve the safety of their workplaces: employees and safety and health professionals. Employees bring to the table their intimate knowledge of the work and practical insights about how to do it more safely.  Safety professionals bring:

  • Understanding of the nuances of regulatory requirements, human error, and injury causation.
  • Skills in hazard assessment, analysis, and facilitation.
  • Knowledge of risk reduction methods, best practices and human behavior.
  • And the entire body of knowledge that makes safety a profession.

Trained to help employers reduce and manage risk, safety professionals can spot the traps that can lead to injury in otherwise well-intentioned efforts. They help everyone see what could possibly go wrong.

Way back in 2000, I was grocery shopping in New England and noticed this saying on the back of another shopper’s company T-shirt: Workplace injuries went out of style in the last century. I was heartened because I thought that reflected a changing attitude toward workplace safety. It’s 19 years later and we’ve made progress as a nation and state but not enough. We should be outraged that workplace injuries and fatalities are still occurring when the means to make major reductions are in the hands of every employer.

One year in, Better You, Better Ohio!™ is improving workers’ health, well-being

By Kristen Dickerson, Ph.D., BWC Health and Wellness Manager

Great news from the Better You, Better Ohio!™ program office! More people are now eligible to get paid to get healthy.

We expanded the program to include all injured workers regardless of comorbidity status and any employer with less than 150 employees. This expansion means more Ohio workers can participate in the program and improve their health. As of today, there are 4,220 Ohio workers enrolled in the program. However, by the time you read this, that number will have grown.

This expansion has also allowed us to schedule on-site biometric screening events at employer locations, as we require at least 30 participants to schedule an on-site event. I’m pleased to report we visited nine employers and provided 442 screenings to employees of Ohio’s small businesses in 2018. This all took place the last two days of November and December!

We already have 22 on-site screening events scheduled for the 2019 program year, with more and more employers finding out about the program. Ohio employers clearly value their workers and understand that keeping them healthy is important to the growth of business.

That’s smart. Current research* shows the importance of employers considering their workers’ base health to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. And that’s our goal with this one-of-a-kind program: to support the Total Worker Health concept. Anything an employer can do to support a healthy workforce benefits both employees and the company.

On-site screenings going well

So far, the on-site screening events have gone smoothly for employers and their employees. BWC partners with ActiveHealth Management to handle the enrollment, registration and scheduling for the employer. Employers only need to supply a little information and select a time and date for their on-site event. We handle setting up and running the screening, only taking employees from their workstations for 10-15 minutes. Feedback from employers has been positive. One employer stated, “This was a great opportunity with little effort on our part. Programs like this make it easy to show employees how much we care about them.”

Our partnership with ActiveHealth also allows us to offer the Better You, Better Ohio! portal, where participants can track their rewards and health from year to year. It also offers health information, allowing every employee to tailor the program to their needs.

Success stories abound

ActiveHealth has reported many Better You, Better Ohio! successes. We have already heard stories about:

  • Participant weight loss.
  • Improvements in physical activity.
  • Improvements in heart health.
  • And participants sharing information with their families.

We would love to see more people participating and getting healthy! Join us by helping to get the word out to more workers and employers who could benefit from the program. It’s free and the benefits are priceless.

We value your overall well-being and encourage you to remember your health is the most important thing you have. If you are interested in the program, visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage, or visit the Better You, Better Ohio! portal to sign up today!

*The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Want help “selling safety” within your organization?

Register for our free webinar!

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

It’s almost time – are you ready? I know, I know… you’ve stayed awake at night wondering why BWC’s safety folks have been silent in the safety webinar education world.

Well, your wait is finally over because we’re hosting our very first safety webinar. And I wanted to let you in on the ground floor.

At 1 p.m.  Jan. 17, you can join me (yep, they’re letting me lead the first one) to discuss what “selling” safety means, how to “sell” safety to different levels in your organization and a high-level intro on measuring safety culture.

Selling safety is an important topic that applies to every company size and business type. After 20 years in the safety field, I have found that safety is sales. You read that right – if you have ANY safety responsibility, you are officially in sales and you are selling to all levels of your organization (or at least you should be).

Join me to learn techniques for selling safety and discover simple ways to measure safety culture. I’ll also let you know about BWC’s free resources to help you achieve workplace safety success.

Register today to discover beginner techniques on embracing safety within your organization and the resources available to measure your safety culture.

This program is approved for 0.1 IACET CEU as well as one-hour (general) recertification credit through the HR Certification Institute.