BWC cancels Ohio Safety Congress & Expo due to Coronavirus concerns

ONLINE OPTION STILL ON

By Tony Gottschlich, Public Relations Manager

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud cancelled this week’s Ohio Safety Congress 2020 in-person event due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The health and safety of Ohioans remain our top concern, and we must take every precaution to protect our citizens,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud, following the direction of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and local and state health leaders and experts.

Through emails, social media, and website postings, Administrator/CEO McCloud and safety congress staff informed the 8,600 registered attendees about the cancellation, as well as BWC employees, employers, vendors and other stakeholders in the annual workplace health and safety event, BWC’s 90th this year. BWC will reimburse vendors for their booth space.

Safety congress’s new online component, however, will go on as scheduled, providing the opportunity to secure continuing education credits for professionals in the health care, human resources, safety, and legal communities.

The 8,600 who registered for the in-person event were enrolled automatically for online sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. The online option includes the conference kick-off at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

If you planned to attend any of the educational sessions, please consider the online options available at Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.

Governor DeWine and BWC encourage all of you to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 information by visiting the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) website coronavirus.ohio.gov and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ODH also has a call center open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to answer questions regarding COVID-19. The call center can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

Why the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo is the best value around

By Bernie Silkowski, Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

In my role with our Division of Safety & Hygiene, I realize the importance of keeping our staff current on the latest updates and trends in workplace safety. I also understand the constraints tight budgets can have on getting this important training and education to workers.

Fortunately, we’re offering the 2020 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC 2020) starting next Wednesday in Columbus.

Our safety congress, now in its 90th year, is the largest free work-safety event in the U.S., and it’s right here in your backyard!

The value of OSC 2020
OSC 2020 is more affordable than any other safety conference in the U.S. Perhaps best of all, registration is free. The central Ohio location also makes OSC 2020 a conveniently located and reasonably-priced option for you or your workforce to attend. All you have to cover is transportation, food, and lodging (see breakdown below).

Expense Rate Total
Registration $0 $0
Two nights hotel (average) $135 $270
Transportation Varies ——
Parking $15 $60
Meals/expenses
(days at estimated per diem)
$66 $198
Total average cost $528 + transportation

By comparison, registration alone for other workplace safety conferences can range anywhere from $190 to $1,100.

At our three-day event you and your workers can attend educational sessions that include basic and advanced-level instruction on technical safety topics, safety management and culture, training, ethics, technology, health and wellness, emergency preparedness, and more – all topics that are so important in protecting your workforce and managing workers’ compensation costs. This education can be used for most BWC discount programs and as continuing education credit for many professional certifications, including certified safety professional, certified industrial hygienist, and human resource designations.

You can also visit the Expo Marketplace, where you’ll discover 300 companies displaying their latest safety and health services, equipment, and technologies.

Attendees tell us year after year how much they learn at OSC and the valuable connections they make at the conference. They also tell us this is the only safety conference they attend because the value and quality rivals that of national and international conferences.

It’s all right here in Ohio March 11-13.  I hope to see you and your employees there!

Click on the image below to register for #OSC2020.

BWC board reduces rates for Ohio’s private employers

Employers will pay $132 million less in premiums next year

Ohio’s private employers will pay nearly $132 million less in premiums to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation next fiscal year under a 13% rate reduction the agency’s Board of Directors approved last week.

The reduction marks BWC’s third largest rate cut in 60 years and follows the agency’s largest rate reduction (20%) that the board approved last year.

“The employers and employees we cover in our system continue to experience fewer and less costly claims, so we’re happy to pass these savings along to our employer community,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “It’s our hope employers will use these savings to invest in the safety and wellness of their workplaces.”

The rate reduction becomes effective July 1, the start of state fiscal year 2021. It will save private employers $131.6 million over this year’s premiums. It also follows a 10% rate reduction for public employers — counties, cities, schools and others — that went into effect Jan. 1. Overall, the average rate levels for the 249,000 private and public Ohio employers in the BWC system are at their lowest in at least 40 years.

Premiums paid to BWC not only cover health care and lost wages for injured workers, they also support BWC’s Safety & Hygiene Division, which offers training, consultations and other services to help employers improve workplace safety. Employer participation in these services has grown by more than 70% since 2010. Total annual claims, meanwhile, have fallen 19% over that time to 84,364 in 2019.

The 13% rate cut represents an average statewide change to premiums and does not include costs related to the administrative cost fund or other funds BWC administers. The actual premium paid by individual private employers depends on several factors, including the expected future claims costs in their industry, their company’s recent claims history, and their participation in various BWC programs.

A history of BWC rate changes since 2000 can be found online by clicking this link.

Congrats to the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards finalists!

By Jeff Hutchins, Manager, BWC Quality Assurance & Technical Safety Support

Sometimes workplace safety issues require employers to think outside the box for solutions. It’s inspiring to see the ideas they develop to overcome workplace hazards. To spotlight these employers, their innovative spirit, and their commitment to workplace safety, we sponsor our annual Safety Innovation Awards.

The program recognizes innovations that result in risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations. Examples of innovations include:

  • Technological advancements.
  • Creative use of existing equipment.
  • Unique processes and practices.
  • Development of new equipment.

This year we received more than 70 applications for consideration! After careful deliberations, we are pleased to introduce the following employers as the five finalists for the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards.

Diversified Fall Protection (Westlake) – Portable Truss Anchor
Diversified Fall Protection engineers, manufacturers, and distributes fall protection equipment. The company is located in the Cleveland area.

In an industrial setting, working at height above machinery poses a fall hazard. Unstable ladders and limited styles of fall protection when working in such an environment have proven to be ineffective. Contributing to this hazard is the practice of tying off to structures that are not capable of supporting the load if a fall does take place.

The innovation is a portable personal fall protection anchor that installs quickly overhead into the opening of the bottom chord of a roof application. The Portable Truss Anchor uses the overhead truss system in a building to create an Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant anchorage point for working at height. Unlike permanently attached fall protection anchor systems that require a self-retracting lanyard at each location, the Portable Truss Anchor is an alternative solution that installs in minutes – where and when it is needed.

More than 1,000 workers currently use the Portable Truss Anchor with no reported fall-related injuries associated with its use.

­Fort Amanda Specialties (Lima) – Custom Cleaning-in-Place Safety Solution
Fort Amanda Specialties, LLC is a joint venture of Nouryon and BASF Corporation. They are a chemical producer of high-quality chelates.

Transport screws are used to move solid product in a multi-product processing unit. Cleaning out these screws during product changes created multiple hazardous exposures as workers had to remove the lids to wash the screws. This exposed workers to unguarded moving machinery, high-pressure water spray, and slip hazards from overspray on walking-working surfaces.

Custom made wash lids were designed with Plexiglass windows for inspection. The lids were installed along with permanently mounted spray nozzles inside, eliminating the need for manual high-pressure cleaning the rotating screw.

Contact with moving equipment and exposure to high-pressure water is eliminated. Wash water is contained inside the enclosure, reducing water use and eliminating slip hazards.

Mt. Vernon City Schools (Knox County) – Rapid Barricade
Mt. Vernon City Schools is a school district in Knox County serving 3,800 students at six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and a digital academy.

If a school or other public building experiences a threat, many of these facilities will activate a lock-down procedure.  Door locking devices must be easy to deploy and remove and must withstand extreme force. Some locking devices do not comply with building/fire codes, require facility modifications to install or tools to deploy, and some require workers to verify deployment from a public area (i.e. the hallway), which exposes them to the threat.

The need was for a temporary door-locking device that meets all fire code and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and was always available, not stored somewhere.

School maintenance personnel worked with a local machine shop to create the Rapid Barricade. After the design was perfected, a patent was awarded. Workers can install the Rapid Barricade on any ADA-compliant door. It deploys in seconds and can withstand 1,200 pounds of force.

TFO Tech Co., LTD (Jeffersonville) – Furnace Pulley Unloader
TFO Tech Co., LTD produces wheel hubs, crankshafts, CVT pulleys, and other automotive parts in Jeffersonville, Ohio.

Workers had to manually rake 10- to 13-pound parts approximately 2.5 feet into a bin as the parts exit the heat treat furnace. The parts coming from the furnace are near 300 degrees Celsius, so excessive heat was a hazard. The raking motion exposed workers to ergonomic hazards; shoulder, elbow, back, and chest were the main areas of the body that were of concern.

The innovation drops down and encloses the parts in a steel frame. The frame slides the product off the conveyor and into the basket. Rather than manually raking the parts, workers complete the process with the push of a button.

This innovation significantly reduced the ergonomic risks by eliminating the raking motion and reduced the workers’ heat exposure because the operator’s panel is about 5 feet farther away from the hot parts than the original operating position.

thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America (Hamilton) – Near Miss Reporting App
thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America manufactures shock absorbers for high-performance automobiles, motorsports, and off-road vehicles in Hamilton, Ohio.

In a manufacturing facility that works 24/7, with nearly 700 employees, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions were happening. Unfortunately, they were often not being reported, nor addressed. Before implementation, the site had an average of about four near misses being reported per month, and they were coming from the same few supervisors. It was a cumbersome reporting process that required the worker to download a four-page document from the intranet, complete it, print it, and then have it signed by multiple people. The process was slow; often the Safety Department was not aware of a near miss until it landed in its mailbox, days later.

The innovation changed the near miss reporting process from a tedious, long paper document to a short, quick, and easy electronic submission method called the “Near Miss App.” The app was developed through web-based software called Smartsheet. Anyone can submit the online form, and it puts the information into a database similar to an Excel spreadsheet.

Near miss reports have increased from approximately 48 per year to more than 500 per year. The resulting investigations helped them reduce their Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable rate from 3.03 to .91, and their lost-time accident rate from 3.61 to 0.

The five finalists will be on hand at the Safety Innovation Awards booth at the 2020 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC 2020) March 11-13 in Columbus. Stop by to learn more about the innovations and vote for your favorite when you’re at OSC 2020.

We will present awards and monetary prizes to the finalists during OSC 2020, but the real winners are the employees of these companies. Innovations like the ones above help workers stay safe and healthy, increase productivity and morale, and produce long-term cost savings.

Click on the image below to register for #OSC2020.

BWC adds three counties to worker recovery program

By Widlynn Milor, BWC Communications Department Intern

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud visited London, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to announce Clark, Greene, and Madison counties have joined a BWC program that encourages employers to hire workers in recovery from substance use disorder.

Under BWC’s Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program (SUR-WSP), BWC will pay for drug screenings and special training for managers to help local employers hire, better manage, and retain workers recovering from addiction to opioids and other dangerous substances.

“This is about workplace safety and meeting the challenges Governor DeWine outlined in his RecoveryOhio initiative,” Administrator McCloud told an audience of public leaders and recovery experts gathered at the Madison County Municipal Courthouse. “We know when workers in recovery get a job, they are more likely to stay on a successful path. In addition, the special training managers receive emphasizes safety and appropriate strategies that benefit the worker and employer both.”

SUR-WSP launched in October 2018 in three counties: Montgomery, Ross and Scioto. Governor DeWine expanded the program in BWC’s latest budget, pledging up to $15 million over 2020 and 2021 to include nine more counties.

The program is funded by BWC but is administered by local Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) boards or similar boards. Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties (MHRB) will be leading efforts in its jurisdiction.

“The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties is thrilled to join this effort,” said Greta Mayer, chief executive officer at MHRB. “Our board is investing heavily in workplace and workforce efforts, because we know that it is beneficial for both employers and people in recovery.”

MHRB will identify eligible employers and employees, disperse funding, and measure results. BWC funds cover the following:

  • Reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing.
  • Training for managers/supervisors to help them better manage a workforce that includes individuals in recovery.

More information can be found on our website.

Deadline for Safety Grant applications approaches

Ohio employers seeking grants from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to invest in safety measures have until March 31 to apply for funds in this year’s fiscal budget.

Employers who miss that deadline must wait until July 1, the first day to apply for fiscal 2021 funding under BWC’s popular Safety Grants program.

“We appreciate Ohio employers who take safety seriously and seek our assistance funding equipment aimed at reducing or eliminating workplace injuries and illnesses,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

Applications for fiscal 2020 funds via U.S. mail must be postmarked no later than March 31. The online application service will close after March 31 and not re-open until July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2021.

BWC offers $20 million a year in safety grants. As of Jan. 3, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene had approved 616 grant requests. Another 304 were pending.

The March 31 deadline applies to the following grants:

• Safety Intervention
• Employers Working with Persons with Developmental Disabilities
• Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements
• School Safety and Security
• Workplace Wellness

Safety Grants are available to all Ohio state-fund, private and public taxing district employers to purchase equipment to eliminate or reduce workplace hazards. You can find more information on our Safety Grants program on our website.

Fraudulent billing leads to occupational therapist’s conviction

Agency secures 6 fraud-related convictions in December   

A northeast Ohio occupational therapist was convicted last month for felony workers’ compensation fraud for billing the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for treatment services she did not provide to patients.

Susanna Kagalitskaya Freedman, of Euclid, pleaded guilty Dec. 17 in a Cuyahoga County court to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge sentenced her to five years of probation and a $2,500 fine. Additionally, Freedman was permanently decertified to treat BWC patients for claim-related injuries.

“As an agency, we expect providers to give superior care and service to injured workers,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “This particular provider obviously did not meet the standard of care injured workers deserve and she cheated our system.”

Numerous red flags in Freedman’s billing practices and treatment notes sent to BWC prompted BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) to initiate an investigation starting in October 2017. Investigators discovered Freedman was falsifying documents, indicating services had been rendered when they had not. BWC would then pay for the substandard care based on the falsified information Freedman provided.

SID secured five other fraud-related convictions in December, bringing calendar year 2019’s total to 94.

Jeffrey Jakob of Toledo
Jakob pleaded guilty Dec. 31 in Toledo Municipal Court to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found he was operating his business, J.A. Jakob Marine Contracting, with lapsed coverage since March 2015. BWC agents made multiple attempts to assist Jakob in getting his coverage reinstated, but he failed to do so. The judge ordered him to one year of probation and to comply with a reinstatement payment plan with the Ohio Attorney General’s office. He must also remain current on installment payments to BWC.

Harold Brown of Bellefontaine
Brown pleaded guilty Dec. 23 to three second-degree misdemeanor charges of failure to comply for running his business, Brown’s Lawn & Tree Service, without workers’ compensation coverage. BWC investigators discovered his BWC policy had been lapsed since September 2010. Brown received 30 days in jail (suspended), a $250 fine, and was ordered to make regular payments to BWC and the Attorney General until a reinstatement payment plan was paid in full. The current amount due on Brown’s BWC policy is approximately $133,000.

Marie Olinger of Delta
On Dec. 17, a Franklin County judged ordered Olinger to three years of community control for working while receiving more than $2,800 in disability benefits from BWC. The investigation found Olinger had returned to work at the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio between January and March 2017 while receiving temporary total disability benefits.

Rodney Filibeck of Mansfield
Filibeck pleaded guilty Dec. 16 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. After receiving an anonymous tip, BWC investigators determined Filibeck was working construction jobs while receiving BWC disability benefits between September 2016 and June 2017. The judge handed down a 60-day jail sentence, suspended for 12 months of community control and ordered him to pay $2,519 in restitution to BWC.

Deangelo Speed of Shaker Heights
Speed pleaded guilty Dec. 2 in a Franklin County courtroom to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. BWC agents found Speed working as a truck driver while collecting BWC benefits from Oct. 20, 2015, through Jan. 27, 2017. The judge ordered Speed to pay BWC $7,599 in restitution and court costs by March 2, 2020. The judge also sentenced Speed to a six-month jail sentence, suspended for six months of probation.

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

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