Make your business a falls-free zone!

September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month

Submitted by STEADY U Ohio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Aging

Older adults probably play an important role in the success of your business, both as consumers and employees. That is, until they fall down.

One in three older adults will fall this year. Every five minutes, an older Ohioan is injured in a fall. When staff or customers fall in your business, it doesn’t just hurt them; it also hurts your reputation and your bottom line. A single fall can affect an older adult’s ability to remain independent and contribute to your continuing success.

Most falls in businesses can be prevented, and prevention can be achieved largely through staff and customer education and motivation. The STEADY U Ohio initiative is ready to help businesses create a safer environment for older adults and Ohioans of all ages who do business with them. Here are a few steps every business should take to prevent falls:

  • Create a falls prevention policy for your business and make sure your employees know and understand it.
  • Routinely identify issues with flooring, stairs, lighting and housekeeping that could cause accidents.
  • Post signs at your entrance and around the business advising customers to notify staff of slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Ensure that walkways are clean and clear of cords and obstructions. If you must use rugs or mats, ensure that they remain flat and that they do not move under foot.
  • Ensure that people can move freely around displays in the aisles without adjusting their gait. Avoid displays at the end of aisles that obscure a customer’s view of other customers and obstacles.
  • Have staff regularly monitor aisles for items that have fallen off shelves and are blocking.
  • Quickly clean up all spills (dry and wet). Provide supplies (i.e., towels, “wet floor” signs, trash cans) in convenient locations around your business.
  • Provide seating around your business, particularly in areas where customers may have to wait during busy times (e.g., near checkout lines, the service desk, the pharmacy, restrooms and exits).
  • When it’s snowy or icy, extend sales or offer shopping options for older customers (e.g., delivery or rain checks by phone) so they don’t have to risk falling to get a good deal.
  • Educate staff on proper lifting and carrying techniques and equipment, and instruct them to help customers carry large or bulky objects and bags.
  • If someone falls, document the incident and examine the cause so that you can prevent future accidents. Use our incident report template to get started.
  • Empower staff to offer assistance to customers who appear to be having trouble getting around.

Find tools to help your business prevent falls at our website, www.steadyu.ohio.gov. Resources include a sample falls prevention policy, a hazard checklist, an incident report template, tip sheets and a falls risk self-assessment. Educate yourself, your staff and your consumers, and make your business a falls-free zone!

Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Have you ever wondered how BWC calculates your workers’ compensation insurance premium rate?

By Christopher S. Carlson, FCAS, MAAA, BWC Chief Actuarial Officer

It all comes down to an equation:

     Modified premium rate
+   Administrative cost rate
+   Disabled Workers’ Relief Funds assessments
=   Blended insurance rate per $100 of payroll

With the definitions in the sidebar as reference, let’s break down the formula:

All employers have a base rate determined by their manual classifications.

Larger businesses also have an experience modifier, a projection of expected future claims costs (based on past claims experience).

Multiplying the base rate and experience modifier (if you have one) results in the modified premium rate (MPR).

BWC factors in an administrative cost rate, used to run BWC and the Industrial Commission, and then adds assessments for two Disabled Workers’ Relief Funds that provide cost of living increases for disabled workers.

The result is your blended premium rate, the amount you pay per $100 of payroll

So there you have it, a quick lesson in BWC Premium Rate Development 101. This YouTube video provides even more detail on how BWC calculates your Ohio workers’ compensation premiums.

Remember, the best way to keep premiums low is to provide a safe workplace. Safer workplaces reduce accidents, reduce costs, and in the end, reduce your premiums.

Continuing the workers’ comp conversation

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Oklahoma: home to Will Rogers, Route 66 and CompSource Mutual Insurance Company – host of the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF). AASCIF is an association of workers’ compensation state funds from 26 different states, plus 8 workers’ compensation boards in Canada.

The conference was held in Oklahoma City in late June and hundreds of attendees gathered from around the country to discuss hot topics in the workers’ comp industry.

As was mentioned in a previous post, three BWC employees are members of AASCIF’s committees tasked with planning session topic and finding speakers for the annual conference. Michael Rienerth, Ergonomics Technical Advisor is on the Safety and Health Committee. Bill Teets, Communications Director is on the Communications Committee and I am on the Enterprise Risk Management and Underwriting Committee.

Along with planning sessions, committee members were also asked to share their knowledge and experience at track sessions at this year’s conference. Mike presented on violence in the workplace. Bill presented on crisis communication and the strategy of thought leadership. And I presented on state to state coverage conundrums.

Shadya Yazback, our Chief of Enterprise Services, also presented a session on preparing the business for large scale IT changes.

Additional sessions were held on the use of predictive analytics, the state of the economic, emerging technologies, telemedicine, and other topics affecting the industry as a whole.

Two of the main session speakers, Richard A. Clarke, Former National Security Advisor and Frank Abagnale, American Security Advisor (you may know him from the movie Catch Me If You Can), discussed the importance of safeguarding our personal information and the constant threat of cyber security.

We also heard the inspiring story of an Oklahoma City Bombing survivor and the friendship that developed with her rescuer. The story reinforced the amazing capacity of people to heal from wounds (both physical and metal) and the important role of the people who support them through their recovery.

In addition to the speakers, AASCIF holds an annual Communication Awards competition. I am happy to report that BWC won two awards this year. We received 2nd place in the Excellence in the Writing category for the “Trek through Nepal” article. And we won 1st place in the Print Marketing Piece category for a marketing piece we created for Other States Coverage. Working with the communications department, we targeted our marketing to a specific group of employers based on their size and the type of work they do. The marketing piece generated several inquires and we ended up issuing three policies, meaning we received a return on our investment.

As always, the conference was a whirlwind of activities. In addition to educational sessions, we spent time getting to know members of the other states workers’ comp funds, discussing ways to improve our operations and even having a little fun. Since we were in Oklahoma, we couldn’t close the trip without experiencing a rodeo and visiting the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Yee Haw!

Workers’ Comp: Adapt or fall behind

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

I had the opportunity to attend the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) 2017 Annual Issues Symposium earlier this month. NCCI presents a word that describes the industry as a whole and sets the tone for the conference each year. That word this year was “adapting.”

As Bill Donnell, president and chief executive officer for NCCI, kicked off the conference, he explained how important it is for workers’ compensation to stay relevant in a world that is consistently changing. He provided Blockbuster Video as an example of a company that failed because they did not see the changes coming and adjust to keep up with the times.

As technology was moving towards streaming television and videos, Blockbuster Video did not anticipate how these changes were going to affect them and actually turned down an opportunity to purchase Netflix. This inability to see the writing on the wall contributed to their ultimate demise.

The theme that resonated throughout the conference is that we as an industry cannot afford to get stuck where we are. If we want to continue to be successful in serving our customers, we have to continue to adapt. Bill believes the industry has the capacity and talent to weave the changing technology into our everyday activities and predicted continued growth and development well into the future.

Reflecting on this need to adapt, I began to think about all the things BWC is doing to adapt and ensure our customers are getting the services they desire. The first thing that came to mind is the initiative to update BWC’s website to make it more user friendly. BWC’s website has A LOT of good information. But in a time when attention spans are getting shorter by the day, no one wants to comb through piles of information to find what they need.

Our customers want us to know what they need and put it front and center on the website so that they can find it quickly. I know the Administrator is particularly excited about the new website and the ability to provide information to customers in the way they desire. There is talk about a mobile app, push notification and other needed updates. I know I pay my bills, check into flights and generally manage my life from my mobile phone so I am excited to see how the new web changes will streamline and simplify interactions for our customers.

I am also excited about BWC’s recent announcement to invest $6 million for a new health and wellness program for small Ohio employers. We only get one body to live in, so investing in our health is essential to a happy and healthy life.  In addition, the research continues to show that employees who get injured are much more likely to have positive outcomes and return to work if they are healthy pre-injury.  Investing in Ohio’s workforce wellness is another great example of how BWC is adapting to serve its customers.

Internally, we have recently launched the Nimble and Agile workgroup to continue discussions on what we can do to stay relevant and adapt with the changing world. The workgroup is working on crisis management planning to ensure BWC resources are ready in the event of a policyholder crisis. They are also exploring ways to foster innovation and encourage staff to collaborate on improvements. Finally, they are planning the launch of a new internal wellness program to encourage BWC staff to strive for wellness of mind, body and spirit.

“Adapting” is an appropriate word to describe the workers’ comp industry. I’m pleased my employer recognizes and understands the importance of the word. We’ll continue to work toward a more flexible system ready to adjust to our customers’ changing needs.

I look forward to hearing next year’s word. No matter what it is, I suspect Ohio will be well prepared to meet whatever challenge it presents.

Driverless Vehicles – Rapid Changes Ahead

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Originally published in the May 2017 American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF) Newsletter

Transportation-related incidents continue to be the leading cause of fatal workers’ compensation injuries. So the buzz about autonomous vehicles has caught the attention of the industry. The hope is that by automating certain functions of vehicles, human error can be eliminated and safety improved.

There are different levels of automation, ranging from low levels of driver assistance, such as cruise control, to partial automation, where humans cede control under certain condition, to fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Although there are companies currently piloting self-driving vehicles, experts say we are still years away from fully autonomous vehicles. However, partial automation is being developed rapidly and is likely a short-term reality due to increased investment in research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), auto manufacturers, and individual states.

Although the possibility of improving safety is exciting, those in the workers’ compensation world need to be thoughtful about how the changes in innovation will affect how they do business in both the short and long term. Specifically from an underwriting perspective, considerations will have to be made about evaluating the risk of transportation companies in an ever- changing technology landscape.

One of the first questions on everyone’s mind is “how do we know when autonomous vehicles are safe enough to become mainstream?” Companies have been testing and retesting concept vehicles, but the real difficulty is anticipating every situation a vehicle may encounter. Arda Kurt, research scientist for the Center of Automotive Research at The Ohio State University, explained that “the real challenge is figuring out how to program the vehicle for the unexpected situation.” Developing an autonomous vehicle to travel on a highway is something technology can handle, but when you throw in unexpected obstacles such as an animal or road construction, that is where testing still needs to be done. He also explained that research is still being conducted on how consumer usage will affect injuries. “When people don’t have to actually be driving, they may position themselves differently in the car. We are still researching how to mitigate risk if people are slouching to one side,” he said.

As these developments continue, underwriting departments are going to have to determine how they are going to assess the risk associated with employers using autonomous vehicles. It is still unclear how underwriters will determine which automated components actually lead to fewer accidents, or how to evaluate employer safety protocols to ensure the vehicles are being used as intended. As the technology for automation continues, the underwriting strategy will have to follow closely behind to ensure risks are adequately accounted for.

Another topic of discussion has to do with liability. There are many questions about liability if an autonomous vehicle crashes. Currently, a human is still required to pay attention in a car, but there will surely be questions about product liability when crashes occur. A publication titled Self-Driving Cars and Insurance by the Insurance Information Institute (III) explained that insurers will have to determine “whether the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or supplier for what went wrong rather than their own behavior.” It also mentions the possible need for liability laws to evolve to account for these situations.

Although autonomous vehicles should not affect claim compensability, insurers will have to consider how to address subrogation for workers’ compensation claims occurring in autonomous vehicles. If liability laws change to encourage the use of autonomous vehicles, workers’ compensation carriers will have to stay engaged and advocate for their right to recover claims costs caused by a third party. And if laws are passed that do not allow recovery, underwriting and risk control departments will be tasked to find ways to reduce the risk associated with these types of claims.

Perhaps the biggest question that remains for underwriters is how technological innovation will change the transportation industry and the occupations therein. Today, there are millions of truck drivers on the roads, delivering the products we consume. Currently their jobs are pretty straightforward; they pick up freight in one location, drive to the destination, and unload the freight. Their occupation, and the risk associated with it is somewhat defined. However, we may be on the cusp of technology that could radically change what the truck driver occupation looks like. Companies are beginning to experiment with “platooning,” where two tractor trailers follow each other closely to approve fuel efficiency. This arrangement is possible because technology allows the vehicles to talk to each other, so the second truck knows when to change speed or break. Currently, a truck driver is required to be present in both vehicles, but some are predicting that it is only a matter of time until the second vehicle is driverless.

If platooning becomes an industry standard in transportation, many questions about occupational hazards will have to be addressed. Will manual classification need to evolve to address drivers who are not actually driving? Will truck drivers’ salaries change and if so, how will that affect payroll and premiums for the transportation industry? And what are the unintended risks that may creep in as occupations change?

Just like most changes, there are many questions that we don’t have the answers to. And that’s ok. Right now it is just important that we stay alert and prepare for the rapid changes ahead.

Be sure to join the Underwriting Committee at the AASCIF Annual Conference for A Changing Workforce: Technology & Automation to hear about what changes other industries are experiencing.

Sources:
Kurt, Arda. “Autonomous Vehicles.” Personal interview. 10 Feb. 2016. Center of Automotive Research at The Ohio State University

“Self-Driving Cars and Insurance.” © Insurance Information Institute, Inc, July 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

McFarland, Matt. “When Truck Drivers Tailgating Is Actually a Good Thing.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 16 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Ottawa County Safety Council members share their OSC17 experience

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

Two-hundred and forty miles total. Four hours roundtrip. Ottawa County Ohio employers didn’t let that keep them from capitalizing on the nation’s largest regional occupational safety and health conference. Several employers from Ohio’s north shore descended on Columbus a few weeks ago to find valuable information and resources at BWC’s Ohio Safety Conference & Expo 2017 (OSC17).

It’s no surprise that so many of these employers are also members of the Ottawa County Safety Council. That’s because Jessica Kowalski, manager of the safety council, keeps her membership engaged and focused on workplace safety.

Jessica works tirelessly to promote BWC programs and services through social media and more traditional means of communication, and we appreciate her partnering with us.

After OSC17, she surveyed members of the Ottawa County Safety Council to get feedback on their experience at this year’s event. Below are some of their thoughts.

Dave Barth of Bay Point Resort & Marina attended several sessions on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s new reporting guidelines and found sessions to enhance his understanding of job assessments and their benefits. In the Expo Marketplace, he met several vendors he intends to contact about future business.

Julia Catlett of Magruder Hospital applauded BWC for providing classes that are educational from a variety of different perspectives, ranging from safety officers to human resources. She appreciates that sessions provide credit toward her certifications and give her useful information to implement in everyday processes.

Michelle Ish, Ottawa County HR Director, attended her 13th safety congress this year. She appreciates seeing other industry professionals and knows many are repeat attendees, adding, “It’s nice to network on such a large scale!”

Evan Viery of Signature Label found OSC17 to be an excellent summarization of where safety has gone in recent years and where it intends to go. He also felt it was a great opportunity to meet people from other companies and to see what fellow Ohio companies are doing to keep an edge.  “Every time I attend I am more pleased with OSC,” he says.

Tim Gerkensmeyer of Martin Industries tries to attend the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo as much as he can. He said he enjoys catching up with people who he doesn’t see often, adding that he met several new people from his own county.

Adam Holmes of The Ashley Group praised the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium. He attended the symposium for the first time, saying it covered topics related to almost every industry, and it promoted open conversation and sharing of ideas among professionals from several different backgrounds. He says, “The chance to hear first-hand from a variety of employer organizations regarding the challenges they face helps me improve as a consultant to my clients. “That in itself is invaluable and reason alone to make the trip again next year!”

No matter the distance to Columbus, employers from all over the state have many reasons to attend the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. Make your plans to attend in 2018, March 7-9, in Columbus.