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.

Black History Month: For my family, voting is a generational experience

By Eric Bruce, Customer Service Representative, Ohio Ethics Commission

Eric Bruce, Customer Service Representative with the Ohio Ethics Commission, stands with his mother, Essie Bruce, following BWC’s Black History Month celebration on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask my mother many things about her life growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, at her age of 97, I have a full collection of stories and plenty of information. But I had never asked her about her voting experience until just a few days ago.

Essie Bruce, a retired librarian who worked at the Dayton Metro Library and the University of Dayton main library, never voted in Arkansas because she was too young when she lived there. But she told me how her parents in the late 1930s and early ‘40s saved money and paid the required poll taxes to vote, a practice of the era that was used to discourage or suppress black voting.

After completing her degree in library science, my mother worked at colleges and universities in Texas and Oklahoma, but never voted in those states either, as voting was not encouraged in the African American community.

My mom moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1950, where her landlady, an Ohio-born African American with a long history of voting, strongly encouraged her to register to vote. My mother voted for the first time in a voting station temporarily housed in a neighbor’s garage, and this was the beginning of a lifetime of voting.

She became a strong voting advocate over the years, encouraging me and others to register to vote. She quickly became a well-informed voter, too, keeping up with current issues. When I was about 8 years old, she took me inside a voting machine and explained the process. By the time I turned 18, I was eager to register to vote, like a long-awaited rite of passage.

In 2008, my youngest son turned 18. To celebrate, we decided to vote together as a family with my two older sons. We carefully coordinated work and school schedules to arrive at our Gahanna polling station at the same time. As we celebrated this historic family event, my wife Vivian noticed a few mean stares from other voters. We were the only African American voters there, and they likely assumed who and what we were there to support.

We were disappointed but not discouraged. That experience was a good lesson that our vote does make a difference. We expect our grandchildren to continue to exercise their right to vote and remember their ancestors who fought for them to have that opportunity.

Thanks, Mom.

BWC a force for growth, workplace safety, opioid solutions in 2019

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

Some might view the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation as a purely reactive agency — we compensate injured workers and help them get back to work, health, and life after a workplace injury.

But as I reach my 1-year anniversary this week as BWC’s administrator and CEO, I’m struck at just how proactive we were in 2019, all to the benefit of working Ohioans, employers, and our economy.

Taking direction from Gov. Mike DeWine, our actions fostered business and job growth, created safer workplaces, and continued to battle the opioid and substance use epidemic devastating our state and nation.

I traveled across our state last year meeting business owners, local leaders, and other Ohioans both delighted and grateful for our efforts to keep workers’ compensation costs low and safety awareness high. Indeed, our list of accomplishments is impressive, and I never tire of talking about them!

Creating safe, healthy workplaces
We secured an unprecedented $40 million in our two-year budget for our Safety Grants program, allowing us to reach even more employers focused on workplace safety.

These grants, up to $40,000 per employer, provide private and public State Insurance Fund employers funding for training, wellness programs, and equipment intended to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses. These dollars purchase body armor for law enforcement, protect fire fighters from carcinogens, and improve the safety and security of the workers and students in our schools, among others.

To date this fiscal year, we have approved the following:

  • $8.2 million in School Safety and Security Grants for nearly 300 schools and school districts to purchase security doors and cameras, metal detectors, shatter proofing window film and the like.
  • $5 million in Safety Intervention Grants for manufacturers and other businesses.
  • $1.2 million in Ohio Law Enforcement Body Armor grants, a program administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
  • Nearly $725,000 for fire departments to protect firefighters from carcinogens and other toxins with special gear and industrial washing machines/extractors.
  • $247,000 to protect social workers and others who work with people with disabilities.
  • $82,000 in Workplace Wellness Grants to help employers establish wellness programs.

Our Safety Grants Program has proven so popular in the employer community that we have already reached our 2020 appropriation of $20 million!

Battling opioids and the substance use epidemic
Following Governor DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative, we continued our effort to mitigate the impact of the opioid and substance use epidemic on our workforce and broader community.

  • We removed Oxycontin from our formulary on June 1 and replaced it with painkillers that have stronger abuse-deterrent technology.
  • With Governor DeWine at our side, we launched our drug disposal program Nov. 1, providing injured workers with free disposal products that destroy leftover opioids so they won’t fall into the wrong hands. We know of no other workers’ comp system in the country doing this.
  • We secured $15 million over 2020-2021 for our Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program, which encourages employers to hire workers recovering from addiction. The program helps employers fill job openings and workers stay on a clean, successful path.
  • With encouragement from Governor DeWine, we have expanded this program this year from three counties (Montgomery, Ross, Scioto) to include Lawrence, Pike, Mahoning and Lorain counties. Clark, Greene and Madison counties are pending.

Improving Customer Service
At the core of everything we do each and every day is this question: How can we best serve our customers? That guiding principle led to several initiatives in 2019.

  • New tech protects our customers’ credit card information. We’re always looking for new ways to protect our customers’ information, which was the primary goal of a recent upgrade to our credit card payment system.

On June 12, a third-party vendor began managing our employers’ credit card information. Employers may notice the new automated process when they call our contact center to pay their premium with a credit card. Our representatives still handle the phone calls – they just activate the new, secure payment system when it’s time to collect credit card information. Kiosks at each of our service offices now also accommodate those who wish to pay in person with a credit card. The process to pay premiums online at www.bwc.ohio.gov remains the same.

  • Improving stakeholder correspondence. A largescale project is underway to review and rewrite hundreds of pieces of correspondence with the goal of simplifying and humanizing our communications, providing a better experience for everyone who interacts with our agency.
  • Safety messaging. BWC created a webpage to serve as an archive for our safety bulletins: https://info.bwc.ohio.gov/wps/portal/bwc/site/safety/bwc-library/safety-bulletins/. These bulletins are meant to provide safety tips and resources about urgent safety topics affecting Ohio’s workers.

Customer feedback
Whew! That is some list of accomplishments! But when it comes to our good work, you don’t have to take my word alone for it.

Watch these YouTube videos of business leaders talking about BWC as a true partner.

Watch this news coverage of the day we launched our Opioid Disposal Bag initiative and read the editorial by the Toledo Blade.

Moving forward
All of this would not have been possible without the support of so many, including Gov. DeWine, our BWC board, Ohio lawmakers, and the employers and workers in this state who put a premium on workplace safety.

I also owe it to the nearly 1,800 BWC employees around Ohio who are dedicated to making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I am honored to work with them. Their work over the last year showed me that we are truly a people-focused agency determined to provide the best service possible to our customers — Ohio’s employer community and workforce.

I am confident 2019 is just the baseline for an even better 2020. Stay tuned.

Make 2020 healthier and happier with Better You, Better Ohio!®

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

The arrival of 2020 brings a new year, a new decade, and some changes to Better You, Better Ohio!®, our health and wellness program for workers who work for small employers (150 or fewer employees) in high-risk industries.*

With Better You, Better Ohio!, eligible employers can still start a health and wellness program for their workforce at no cost, without paperwork and without the hassles of running it on their own. But now the program is better than ever.

A streamlined enrollment process – now one step that takes minutes – makes it easier for users to get started. Additionally, we and ActiveHealth Management will offer free monthly webinars on a variety of health and wellness subjects.

The new-and-improved homepage includes timely information and helpful tools for users. A new Wellness Champion Guide can help employers jumpstart their health and wellness programs by empowering workers to take on a more active role in the program.

With more than 17,800 participants in the program, Better You, Better Ohio! is bringing a healthier lifestyle to more and more Ohioans. The program offers an annual incentive, meaning if you participated in 2019, you are eligible again for another incentive for 2020! If you or your company participated last year, we want you to continue your wellness journey this year.

In 2019, we helped employers from all over the state set up 174 on-site biometric screening events for their workers. Many are already booking their events for this year.

Last year’s success stories include several participants losing weight, becoming more active, reducing blood pressure, reducing the number of medications they take, and getting their blood sugar in check. At one biometric screening event in 2019, two lives were likely saved when workers went to the emergency room with critically high blood pressures discovered during their screenings.

Stories like the ones above make the program a success and are reminders of how we can all be healthier and happier. Better You, Better Ohio! is here to help.

*Agriculture; automotive repair and service; construction; firefighters; health care; manufacturing; police and public safety; public employers; restaurant and food service; transportation and trucking; trash collection; wholesale, and retail

A look back at our most-popular posts of 2019

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With 2019 ticking down to its final moments, we wanted to look back at the year and our most popular blog posts from the past 12 months.

This year’s most-read posts include a story about a safety council meeting that literally saved a life, a feature on our safety services helping a local business achieve success, a wrap-up of the 2019 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, and much more.

In case you missed them, below is a listing of our top 10 blog posts from 2019.

  1. Violence against EMS workers a real threat
  2. This safety council meeting was a life-saver – literally
  3. Walking down grain is a deadly operation (Don’t do it)
  4. New online poster archive takes visitors on a safe trip through time
  5. One year in, Better You, Better Ohio! is improving workers health, well-being
  6. BWC safety grants save lives, time, and money
  7. Workplace fatalities are so last century
  8. OSC19 – It was great to connect with YOU!
  9. Safety Innovation Awards finalists show their ingenuity
  10. A split second’ nearly cost safety expert his life

As always, if you have ideas for blog topics, please let us know. Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

Have a happy and SAFE new year!

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!