Looking out for aging workers

May is Older Americans Month

By Stephanie McCloud, Administrator/CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

Americans are living longer, and they’re working longer too. Today, one in every five American workers is over 65, and in 2020, one in four American workers will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), we have 71 workers over the age of 65; 18 are over the age of 70. We truly appreciate our older workers and the years of service to our agency and the people of Ohio.

We recognize the value they bring to our agency, and the contributions of mature workers in general to the work force. They bring skills and knowledge to the workplace honed by decades of service and experience. They are dependable and productive. They have a strong work ethic. They mentor our younger workers.

At BWC, our core mission is to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses. Workplace safety is a critical component of that mission, especially when it comes to our more seasoned workers. They are more susceptible to injury because of age-related challenges – decreases in mobility and sensory functions, reduced strength and balance, and longer reaction times.

When a 25-year-old worker falls on the job, for instance, she might bruise a knee. For a 70-year-old worker, it’s potentially a broken hip and a long recovery.

Older workers helped build our great state, and we want to keep them active, healthy and engaged in their work. We’re a charter partner in the STEADY U Ohio initiative to curb the epidemic of slips, trips and falls among older Ohioans. (One in three older adults will fall this year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.) These are the leading causes of worker injury, and they most often strike workers 45 and older (like me!).

These incidents are costly. The total estimated cost of falls among Ohioans aged 65 and older (medical costs, work loss) is nearly $2 billion annually in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Most are preventable. At Steady U, workers and employers can find tips, tools and resources designed to reduce these incidents.

We urge all Ohioans to join us in creating a culture of safety across this state. Safe workplaces mean fewer, if any, injuries on the job, as well as steady production and lower costs for employers. And they mean more workers can go home healthy each day after their shift.

We are here to help. We have experts, grant dollars and other resources to make Ohio a safer place. To learn more, contact us at 1-800-644-6292 or visit our Division of Safety & Hygiene web page.

Learn fall protection and prevention! Attend a BWC stand-down event

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

In 2017, there were 971 construction fatalities nationwide; 366 of them resulted from falls from elevation.

Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) again lists fall protection in construction as its most frequently cited standard.

To raise awareness and reduce injuries and fatalities, OSHA promotes its annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls. The stand-down encourages employers across the nation to hold events in conjunction with the multi-day event, May 6-10 this year. As always, the stand-down encourages employers to pause during their workday for topic discussions, safety demonstrations, and trainings in hazard recognition and fall prevention.

We have scheduled four FREE training events open to the public during the week of the stand-down. We’ve listed information for each below.

Garfield Heights event

  • When: 8 a.m. to Noon May 7
  • Where: BWC’s Garfield Heights Service Office – 4800 E. 131st, Garfield Heights, OH 44131
  • Event details: Presentations by experts from T. Allen Incorporated, The Albert M. Higley Co., Werner Ladder, Honeywell and the Cleveland OSHA Area Office
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Garfield Heights event.

 Mansfield event

  • When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 7
  • Where: MHS Industrial Supply – 70 Sawyer Parkway, Mansfield, OH 44903
  • Event details: Presentation by experts from FallTech; co-hosted by MHS Industrial Supply
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Mansfield event.

 Pickerington event

  • When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 10
  • Where: BWC’s Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health – 13430 Yarmouth Drive, Pickerington, OH 43147
  • Event details: Presentations by experts from Guardian Fall Protection, LBJ Inc. and the Columbus OSHA Area Office
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Pickerington event.

Youngstown event

  • When: 7:30 – 9 a.m. May 7
  • Where: Boak & Sons, Incorporated – 75 Victoria Road, Austintown, OH 44515
  • Event details: Presentation by experts from 3M and a drop demonstration truck; co-hosted by Boak & Sons, Incorporated
  • Register: Email David Costantino or call 330-301-5825; email David Loughner or call 216-538-9720

We may add more events in the coming weeks. Also, don’t forget the BWC Library offers an extensive collection of audiovisual materials related to fall hazards and fall prevention. Additionally, we offer year-round classes throughout Ohio to address fall protection requirements.

It’s not too late for your company or organization to plan a stand-down event. We’re here if you need help planning your activity. Just call 1-800-644-6292 for assistance.

Better health, straight from the tap

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

There are few things in life more important to us than O2 and H2O. Air and water. We can’t survive without them.

Let’s focus on water. Its benefits are innumerable, as long as it’s clean and safe. That’s the goal of Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio water quality initiative. The initiative is part of the governor’s budget and seeks to invest in long-term solutions to ensure safe and clean water across Ohio.

Clean, safe water is such an important part of our overall health that it’s one of the areas we encourage Ohioans to focus on when they join Better You, Better Ohio!™, our health and wellness program for Ohio’s workforce.

The free program offers health and wellness coaching and other resources for employees of businesses that have 150 or fewer workers. Healthy employees are less prone to injury. And, when they are injured, they’re usually able to recover more quickly.

You can learn more about the program and register here. 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!

ActiveHealth Management – our partner in offering the Better You, Better Ohio! program – also has many free health and wellness resources available to anyone. This includes items like a monthly newsletter and webinars covering a variety of health and wellness topics, including the importance of H2O.

The fact sheet below covers the benefits of H2O, how much you need and tips for drinking enough every day.

Better health – it starts straight from the tap.

Ducking workers’ comp coverage costs Mansfield freight hauler $144K

The owner of a Mansfield freight hauling and trucking company must pay $144,400 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) following his sentence Monday for his conviction on four felony charges related to workers’ compensation fraud.

A Richland County judge also ordered Robert Tate, owner of Elite TNT Enterprises, to serve two years of probation for his conviction Feb. 20 on two counts of workers’ comp fraud, fourth-degree felonies, and two counts of tampering with records, third-degree felonies. Tate must bring his BWC policy into compliance with state law and pay the agency $137,447 in unpaid policy premiums and $6,953 for the costs of its investigation.

“We reached out to Mr. Tate several times to follow the law and protect his employees with workers’ compensation coverage, but he chose to ignore us and it cost him,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

BWC’s special investigations department discovered in 2017 that Tate was operating his business without BWC coverage. After several attempts to work with Tate, agents subpoenaed bank records and audited his business, finding Tate under-reported his payroll over several payroll periods in an attempt to lower the amount he owed the agency. They also found he falsified new applications for BWC coverage by failing to list previous policies with the agency and he under-reported the number of workers he employed.

In other news:

  • A Reynoldsburg woman must pay BWC $5,010 in restitution after pleading guilty April 4 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. BWC investigators discovered Amanda Treadway working as a swimming pool attendant at a condominium complex in 2017 and also as a phlebotomist while collecting BWC disability benefits.
  • A Cincinnati man found working as a truck driver while collecting BWC disability benefits was convicted of a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud April 3. Antoine Harris paid BWC $7,963 in restitution prior to his guilty plea. A judge subsequently terminated Harris’s sentence of one month of probation.
  • A Cleveland Heights woman found working as a restaurant hostess while collecting BWC disability benefits pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud March 28 in Franklin County Municipal Court. A judge ordered Morgan Hines to pay BWC $4,089 in restitution, $88 in court costs and a $250 fine. The judge also sentenced her to two years of probation.
  • BWC has reinstated the policy of a Columbus day care center after the owner paid the $9,442 he owed the agency in back premiums. Ali Ismail, owner of Helpful Hands Children’s Centers, pleaded guilty March 20 to a misdemeanor count of failure to comply.

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

Warmer weather means more work zones – be careful on the road!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With winter behind us, spring brings color back into our lives, from purple irises and yellow tulips to white lilies and … orange barrels.

After the long winter months, the orange barrels of roadwork zones are a rite of spring in Ohio. Along with these orange barrels come road crews with lots of workers. To help keep them and drivers safe, we’re recognizing National Work Zone Awareness Week this week.

This year’s theme, Drive Like You Work Here, asks us all to view work zone safety as if we were part of the crew working to upgrade our roadways. Recent statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration show we can all think about work zone safety a bit more. For example, from 2016 to 2017, there was a 2-percent increase in total work zone fatalities and an increase from 668 to 710 total work zone crashes.

In 2017 there were 710 fatal crashes resulting in 799 deaths in work zones. Most of the fatalities were motorists – 132 of them were worker fatalities. As drivers, we can all do our part to protect ourselves and the men and women working in already hazardous conditions. The following tips from the Federal Highway Administration can help prevent accidents and save lives.

  • Stay alert and minimize distractions – Avoid changing the radio station, using a mobile phone, eating, or other distractions that can remove your concentration from the road.
  • Keep your headlights on – Improve visibility, especially in bad weather conditions, by keeping your headlights on.
  • Pay attention to the road – Watch traffic around you and be prepared to react.
  • Merge into the proper lane – Merge well before you reach the lane closure.
  • Don’t tailgate – Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
  • Obey the posted speed limit – Slow down to save lives and to avoid hefty fines.
  • Change lanes safely – Change lanes only where pavement markings indicate, and only when traffic conditions permit.
  • Expect the unexpected – Workers, work vehicles or equipment may enter your lane without warning.
  • Be patient – Impatience often leads to erratic and dangerous driving.

Be sure to follow the Ohio Department of Transportation on Twitter all this week for more tips and graphics regarding the importance of work zone awareness.

Medical & Health Symposium, April 26 – 27: Offers continuing education, register now

By Dr. Terrence Welsh, BWC Chief Medical Officer and Deborah Kroninger, Chief of Medical Operations

We invite you to attend our fourth annual Medical & Health Symposium. Our first-ever Friday, Saturday conference on April 26 – 27 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center features continuing education for health-care practitioners and legal professionals.

We are dedicating several sessions to the opioid epidemic. Pharmacist Chris Hart shares his journey of chemical dependency to recovery, including relapse. On Saturday, Hart provides an open question-and-answer session giving attendees an opportunity to Ask an Addict. Dr. Sanford Silverman, a pain clinic medical director, will discuss two epidemics: opioids and pain.

Robert Stutman, one of America’s highest profile Drug Enforcement Agency special agents and formerly “the most famous narc in America” (New York magazine), tells how our current drug epidemic differs from previous generations. He also describes actions that can be taken to better identify and prevent prescription drug misuse/abuse and diversion.

Former Judge Jodi Debbreacht-Switalski speaks about one of the most compelling cases for action to mitigate liability resulting from the worst drug epidemic our country has ever seen in her session titled, Your Name is on the Bottle.

In addition, Mark Pew and Reginald Fields discuss medical marijuana in their presentations Is Marijuana Medicine? and Everything Physicians Must Know about Medical Marijuana in Ohio.

The symposium also features speakers on traumatic brain injuries, patient collaboration and chiropractic care. Here’s the brochure that explains each session in more detail and gives speaker bios as well as conference logistics.

For staff who manage the day-to-day operations of workers’ compensation processes and workflows, we’re offering an educational track, the provider staff forum, on Friday.

Register
today and plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you April 26 – 27 in Columbus!

Note: View the conference website for updated information on continuing education.

Violence against EMS workers a real threat

Self defense training, fitness needed, firefighter tells Ohio Safety Congress & Expo

By Tony Gottschlich, Media Relations Public Information Officer

Firefighters and paramedics are in the business of saving lives, but few are prepared to save their own when they encounter hostile situations on the job, a firefighter/paramedic and self-defense coach told an audience Friday morning at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“There’s a huge problem and we need to start coming up with solutions to do something about it,” Jon Grabo told a gathering of Ohio EMS personnel during an educational session entitled, Violence Against Providers: Information and Options for EMS Professionals.

Grabo pointed to federal CDC statistics noting 2,600 EMS personnel received hospital treatment in 2014 due to on-the-job violence. He added that EMS workers are 10 times more likely to be assaulted than the general population.

“Every run has the potential to turn violent,” the nine-year veteran of the Grandview Heights Fire Department said. “And it’s not just from the drunks, the domestic violence calls, the overdoses … It’s anytime, anyplace, from anyone.”

In his 1-hour presentation, Grabo showed videos of real-world violence against EMS personnel, discussed how to recognize a potentially violent situation and offered some options for dealing with it.

He made a strong case for EMS workers to stay physically fit. “Fitness may be the deciding factor in preventing injuries,” he said. “Fitness matters, it always matters.” And he made a stronger case for self-defense training that involves fighting back, not just deflecting blows. “Someone swings at me with a knife and I’m not supposed to take him down?”

The best and first option should be to escape the scene, put some distance between yourself and the threat, he said. Others include reason and talking. Force should always be the last option and should never be punitive, he said. “It is a means for stopping an attack or allowing for escape.”

Asked about his own hostile encounters on the job, Grabo replied, “I’ve been threatened, I’ve been challenged and everything, but I am really good at talking to people. I’ve never had to go hands on.”