Make Halloween safe, not scary

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Halloween is an annual favorite for kids, right up there with Christmas. Unfortunately, it is also one of the deadliest.

Fading daylight, dark costumes, and excited kids darting into the street make children twice as likely to be struck by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.* Because excited trick-or-treaters often forget about safety, motorists must be extra careful.

Follow these Halloween driving safety tips.

  • Avoid distractions, so you can stay alert. Put your cell phone away and don’t reach for things until you’re safely stopped.
  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods and obey all traffic signs and signals. Drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra time to react to children who may dart into the street.
  • Scan your surroundings and be extra alert. Kids may not be paying attention to traffic and will cross the street mid-block or between parked cars and in dark costumes. At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.
  • Don’t pass other vehicles that have stopped in the roadway. They could be picking up or dropping off children, so wait several seconds before attempting to pass, and only if you see there are no people near the car.
  • Exit driveways and pull onto streets with extreme caution. Children have a harder time judging how a driver will react and are more likely to think they have the okay to go ahead.

Follow these tips when sending kids out trick-or-treating.

  • Don’t send young children out unsupervised. A responsible adult should accompany younger children on the neighborhood rounds.
  • Make them easier to see. Have children wear reflective tape, use glowsticks, or carry a flashlight.
  • Make safe choices. Remain on well-lit streets, always use the sidewalk, cross the street in crosswalks and intersections.
  • Have a plan. If your older children are going alone, plan and review a route acceptable to you. Agree on a time for them to be back home.

Visit the National Safety Council’s website for more Halloween safety tips. *Statistic provided by Safe Kids Worldwide.

BWC to cover drug disposal bags for opioid prescriptions

By Miranda Williams, PharmD, RPh, Director of BWC’s Pharmacy Program

In our latest step to mitigate the opioid epidemic on Ohio’s workforce, we will provide injured workers with drug disposal bags that destroy leftover opioids.

Governor Mike DeWine, BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud and RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson announced this new statewide effort Thursday, Oct. 17, in Columbus at a local pharmacy.

You may view the announcement on BWC’s Facebook page. In addition, many media outlets attended the event. Here are some of the stories: Click here for WSYX-TV, ABC 6, in Columbus and here for the Statehouse News Bureau story.

Starting Nov. 1, retail pharmacies will automatically issue the disposal bags to Ohio injured workers receiving an opioid prescription for the first time within the last 12 months.

The bags destroy opioid pills, liquids, and patches in a chemical process rendering them useless.

Unused medications
“Newly injured workers don’t always need every opioid pill in their prescription, and this new effort will simplify the process for safely disposing of these dangerous drugs,” said Governor DeWine, who praised BWC for the initiative. “By giving these drug disposal bags to injured workers at the time they fill a prescription, we can not only educate them about the dangers of opioid addiction, but also reduce the risk that unused pills will end up where they shouldn’t – in the hands of children, for example.”

We’re covering the cost of every disposal bag, so there is no cost to the pharmacy, the injured worker, and the employer. “The bag is extremely simple to use and it’s completely biodegradable,” noted Administrator McCloud.

The bags destroy the drugs in a simple process, as Administrator McCloud and Governor DeWine demonstrated during the news conference:

  1. Toss any unused medication into the bag.
  2. Fill it with warm water and wait 30 seconds.
  3. Seal it and shake it. Throw the bag out.

“Along with the Governor’s RecoveryOhio initiative, we want to safeguard our community’s medicine cabinets from becoming gateways to youth and adult drug experimentation,” said Administrator McCloud.

Gov. DeWine and Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud demonstrate how to use the drug disposal bag.

Here’s a sobering statistic from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for non-medical purposes.

The disposal bags are one more tool in BWC’s comprehensive program to mitigate the opioid epidemic’s impact on Ohio’s workforce. Earlier this year, we dropped Oxycontin from our formulary and replaced it with opioids that have stronger abuse-deterrent technology.

We estimate up to 175 injured workers a month will be eligible for a drug disposal bag. That’s not a huge number — we covered 164,761 opioid prescriptions in calendar year 2018 — but if it saves one life, it’s worth doing. As Governor DeWine has often said, the opioid and substance-use epidemic is a complicated public health issue. There is no easy solution, and it requires all of us, from state leaders to you and our next-door neighbors, to fight this battle.

In addition, we are a leader in our industry. Other state agencies and workers’ comp systems across America look to us for guidance on a host of issues, from building strong pharmacy and safety programs to fighting fraud. Let’s hope they follow our lead on this effort, too.

For more information about drug disposal bags, email or call BWC’s Pharmacy Department at 877-543-6446,  8 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., EST, Monday – Friday.

My experience in BWC’s Safety Leaders Fellowship Program

By Kennedy Gardner, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

Like many recent college graduates, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to pursue after graduating. I knew I wanted a good job where I could make a difference, continue to learn new skills, and start a rewarding career.

I found all of this when BWC offered me a position with its Safety Leaders Fellowship Program within the Division of Safety and Hygiene (DSH). The fellowship is not an internship; it is a full-time, two-year term position with benefits where I work alongside other professionals in the safety and health field.

I spend about 25% of my time as a fellow learning about the consultative services we offer by shadowing our safety consultants out in the field. I observe and assist the consultants on visits ranging from safety assessments to helping employers apply for a safety grant. Assisting employers with their safety and health programs is the most rewarding part of the fellowship for me, because I feel like I am making a difference in the real world of safety for everyday employees right here in Ohio.

In addition to shadowing the consultants, I’ve also had the chance to learn more about safety by completing training (in class and online) as part of the fellowship program. I have always loved learning, and I think it is awesome BWC supports continued education for its employees.

I have taken more than 25 training classes on occupational safety and health topics so far in my time here. These are the same training classes we offer to Ohio’s employers. The classes, available through the safety courses page on our website, range in topics from hazard communication to OSHA recordkeeping. They have provided a great foundation in occupational health and safety for me to build upon in the future.

As part of the fellowship, we work on different projects with various DSH program areas to advance BWC’s mission. For example, I have taken the lead with developing our new safety bulletins. These bulletins are meant to provide safety tips and resources about urgent safety topics affecting Ohio’s workers. We email them to targeted employers and post them on our website, so the information is available to everyone.

The first safety bulletin on power lawn mower safety is already available and another bulletin on trenching safety is in the works. Just knowing that the safety bulletins have the potential to help protect Ohio workers and that I was involved in the process was an awesome experience!

Getting the chance to learn from seasoned safety professionals, continue my education, and be a part of meaningful projects here at BWC are building the foundation to a rewarding career. I am thankful for the opportunity and excited about my future!

High-hazard employers find success with BWC consulting program

By Ben Smigielski, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

Egelhof Controls Corporation worked with BWC’s OSHA On-Site consultants to help it attain Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program accreditation.

It’s amazing how 10 words – We’re strictly consultative. We cannot issue citations or propose penalties – can ease the minds of employers when they hear them from a BWC OSHA on-site consultant.

When most employers hear the word “OSHA,” they instantly think of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, big government, and costly fines and citations. But that’s not the case with BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program. We are dedicated to providing no-cost consultation on a voluntary basis.

That’s right, no cost. Just click on your county for contact information and give us a call.

This program gives priority to smaller private employers in high-hazard industries, often with incredible success.

How it works

An employer requests this confidential consultation through BWC. Employers can ask for an inspection of their entire workplace, or just focus on one or more specific areas of concern. This allows them to tailor the consultation to their liking, involving them in the process rather than just simply running through a rigid process. The program also offers:

  • Safety program assistance.
  • Safety and hygiene training or seminars.
  • Printed and electronic resources.

Using these services helps employers improve safety and health management systems. It also helps them recognize and remove hazards from the workplace, which reduces worker injury and illness rates. In turn, this can lead to a variety of other positive effects, such as decreasing workers’ comp costs, improving worker morale, and increasing productivity.

Creating success stories

One such success story is Egelhof Controls Corporation of Toledo. The company achieved Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) accreditation from OSHA in March 2018. The company earned the distinction after working for months with BWC consultants to make changes to safety programs, work processes, and management’s role in safety.

SHARP accreditation recognizes employers with exemplary safety and health programs. It acknowledges their success in instilling health and safety practices (along with implementing a culture of health and safety) in their workplace.

Perhaps we could help your company accomplish the same. We are here to help. If you think implementing safety measures might be too burdensome and costly, consider this question: What are the costs of NOT investing in safety?

To request an OSHA On-site consultation, submit the request online. Please have your BWC policy number ready. A safety consultant will contact you within two business days. 

Nearly $1 million owed BWC in employer fraud case

Cleveland-area business owner convicted of fraud Monday

A northeast Ohio business owner owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $1 million in restitution following his conviction Monday in Cleveland on workers’ compensation fraud charges.

Robert E. Fitz, an attorney and owner of Action Maids residential cleaning company in Westlake, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud after refusing to cooperate with BWC to bring his lapsed policy into compliance.

“Mr. Fitz owes at least $965,000 in unpaid premiums and for the costs of injured worker claims that occurred while his policy was lapsed,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “If he had just followed the law and paid his premiums, he wouldn’t be in this trouble today.”

At his conviction hearing in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Fitz agreed to work with BWC and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to provide his company’s financial reports and enter a reinstatement payment plan prior to his sentencing date of Nov. 4.

According to BWC’s Special Investigation Department, Fitz’s BWC policy has been lapsed since Sept. 1, 2003. Since then, BWC has picked up the costs on 43 injury claims, including five since 2014.

In other fraud news, a northeast Ohio man must pay BWC nearly $79,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud Tuesday in a Franklin County courtroom.

Ronald J. Dorfeld of Brunswick, Ohio, must pay BWC $78,957 and serve five years of probation in lieu of a nine-month jail sentence for working while collecting BWC disability benefits.

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

Celebrate National Ergonomics Month with some new moves

By Delia Treaster, Ph.D., CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

Have you ever noticed your wrists hurt after hours of working at the computer or your back hurts after standing all day at work? Over time, these daily discomforts can add up, leading to undue physical stress, chronic pain and even injury.

That’s why practicing proper workplace ergonomics is important, and there’s no better time than now. October is National Ergonomics Month – a month the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has designated to recognize the relationship between humans and their work environment.

Ergonomics involves the practice of refining the design of products and workplaces to optimize them for humans.

Here are some tips, new moves and small changes to improve your workplace ergonomics.

Practice Neutral Posture
Neutral posture is the spine’s natural aligned position. It’s important to keep your spine in neutral position as much as possible to avoid pain and injury. A few helpful tips include:

  • Keeping the top of your computer monitor at or slightly below eye height, so your head is level and not tilted up or down.
  • Keeping your feet flat on the ground when you’re sitting in your chair.
  • Using lumbar support in chairs to prevent low back pain.

Get Up and Move
Prolonged sitting can lead to back and neck pain and even long-term health problems. It’s a good idea to get up and move every 30 minutes during the day. Set a reminder if you have to and get up and move your body for a few minutes every half hour. This could mean taking a brisk walk or just standing and stretching. It will also help boost your energy and improve circulation.

Stretch!
Get into the habit of stretching throughout the day. Take quick breaks to touch your toes, stretch your arms, and reach upwards over your head. You’d be surprised how much better a little stretching can make you feel throughout the day.

For more tips to stay safe and healthy in your work environment, visit BeSafeOhio.com.