Workplace fatalities are so last century

By Bernard Silkowski, CSP, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

In the course of 20 days that ended on Jan. 14, six employees died on the job in central Ohio.

The news reports indicate that four suffered crushing injuries at three separate manufacturing sites and a loading dock, one fell off a ladder while replacing light fixtures in an office, and one was caught in machinery at a commercial car wash.

The fact that these six deaths occurred in such a short period of time in one part of the state serves to heighten attention to workplace safety. Plain and simple: No worker should die because of a workplace injury.  Sadly, 5,147 workers throughout the U.S. did in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation-related accidents account for more workplace deaths than any other injury causation. In the past year, Ohio workers also were buried in trenches, electrocuted, and struck by falling trees, lumber, and other objects. Others fell off roofs and walls, slid into an auger, and drowned when the equipment they were operating fell into water.  How could this happen?

We should be outraged because proven means to prevent workplace fatalities exist.

Going above and beyond compliance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations exist because they work. Employers should embrace them and treat them for what they are: minimum compliance requirements. Going above and beyond compliance reduces risk even more. Building safety into processes rather than treating it as an add-on or afterthought reinforces safety expectations and embeds it in the culture. In most cases the benefits go beyond improving safety to increasing quality and productivity as well as reducing workers’ compensation and other costs.

Public employers, this applies to you, too. In fact, injury rates are higher for public employers than private employers. Why? Work is still work and hazards are still hazards. Whether in the private sector or government the same principles of sound safety management apply.

But we trained the employee, you say. She didn’t follow the procedure. He didn’t use common sense. What were they thinking?

All employers have the duty to provide safe and healthful workplaces, and that starts with becoming intimately familiar with OSHA standards to learn the requirements that apply to their work activities. This duty goes beyond simply training employees and handing them personal protective equipment and written safety procedures. It also means managing the process to ensure employees understand the training, wear the PPE and follow the procedures. All the time. It means assigning tasks only to persons who are trained and qualified to perform the work safely.

Assess hazards and be proactive

Critical to all this is performing hazard assessments that identify potential hazards and determine the most appropriate measures to protect the workers. “What could possibly go wrong?” is a good question to ask, while paying particular attention to high-energy and high-consequence hazards such as struck-bys, caught-betweens, chemical exposures and electrical contacts. We all make mistakes and have bad days, so providing robust protection allows for those eventualities. The hierarchy of controls can guide every work planner in choosing effective means of protection.

Two other resources can help employers improve the safety of their workplaces: employees and safety and health professionals. Employees bring to the table their intimate knowledge of the work and practical insights about how to do it more safely.  Safety professionals bring:

  • Understanding of the nuances of regulatory requirements, human error, and injury causation.
  • Skills in hazard assessment, analysis, and facilitation.
  • Knowledge of risk reduction methods, best practices and human behavior.
  • And the entire body of knowledge that makes safety a profession.

Trained to help employers reduce and manage risk, safety professionals can spot the traps that can lead to injury in otherwise well-intentioned efforts. They help everyone see what could possibly go wrong.

Way back in 2000, I was grocery shopping in New England and noticed this saying on the back of another shopper’s company T-shirt: Workplace injuries went out of style in the last century. I was heartened because I thought that reflected a changing attitude toward workplace safety. It’s 19 years later and we’ve made progress as a nation and state but not enough. We should be outraged that workplace injuries and fatalities are still occurring when the means to make major reductions are in the hands of every employer.

One year in, Better You, Better Ohio!™ is improving workers’ health, well-being

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

Great news from the Better You, Better Ohio!™ program office! More people are now eligible to get paid to get healthy.

We expanded the program to include all injured workers regardless of comorbidity status and any employer with less than 150 employees. This expansion means more Ohio workers can participate in the program and improve their health. As of today, there are 4,220 Ohio workers enrolled in the program. However, by the time you read this, that number will have grown.

This expansion has also allowed us to schedule on-site biometric screening events at employer locations, as we require at least 30 participants to schedule an on-site event. I’m pleased to report we visited nine employers and provided 442 screenings to employees of Ohio’s small businesses in 2018. This all took place the last two days of November and December!

We already have 22 on-site screening events scheduled for the 2019 program year, with more and more employers finding out about the program. Ohio employers clearly value their workers and understand that keeping them healthy is important to the growth of business.

That’s smart. Current research* shows the importance of employers considering their workers’ base health to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. And that’s our goal with this one-of-a-kind program: to support the Total Worker Health concept. Anything an employer can do to support a healthy workforce benefits both employees and the company.

On-site screenings going well

So far, the on-site screening events have gone smoothly for employers and their employees. BWC partners with ActiveHealth Management to handle the enrollment, registration and scheduling for the employer. Employers only need to supply a little information and select a time and date for their on-site event. We handle setting up and running the screening, only taking employees from their workstations for 10-15 minutes. Feedback from employers has been positive. One employer stated, “This was a great opportunity with little effort on our part. Programs like this make it easy to show employees how much we care about them.”

Our partnership with ActiveHealth also allows us to offer the Better You, Better Ohio! portal, where participants can track their rewards and health from year to year. It also offers health information, allowing every employee to tailor the program to their needs.

Success stories abound

ActiveHealth has reported many Better You, Better Ohio! successes. We have already heard stories about:

  • Participant weight loss.
  • Improvements in physical activity.
  • Improvements in heart health.
  • And participants sharing information with their families.

We would love to see more people participating and getting healthy! Join us by helping to get the word out to more workers and employers who could benefit from the program. It’s free and the benefits are priceless.

We value your overall well-being and encourage you to remember your health is the most important thing you have. If you are interested in the program, visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage, or visit the Better You, Better Ohio! portal to sign up today!

*The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Want help “selling safety” within your organization?

Register for our free webinar!

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

It’s almost time – are you ready? I know, I know… you’ve stayed awake at night wondering why BWC’s safety folks have been silent in the safety webinar education world.

Well, your wait is finally over because we’re hosting our very first safety webinar. And I wanted to let you in on the ground floor.

At 1 p.m.  Jan. 17, you can join me (yep, they’re letting me lead the first one) to discuss what “selling” safety means, how to “sell” safety to different levels in your organization and a high-level intro on measuring safety culture.

Selling safety is an important topic that applies to every company size and business type. After 20 years in the safety field, I have found that safety is sales. You read that right – if you have ANY safety responsibility, you are officially in sales and you are selling to all levels of your organization (or at least you should be).

Join me to learn techniques for selling safety and discover simple ways to measure safety culture. I’ll also let you know about BWC’s free resources to help you achieve workplace safety success.

Register today to discover beginner techniques on embracing safety within your organization and the resources available to measure your safety culture.

This program is approved for 0.1 IACET CEU as well as one-hour (general) recertification credit through the HR Certification Institute.

Top 5 posts of 2018

Another year is coming to a close! It’s been our pleasure to share a wide range of topics with you in 2018.

In 115 posts, we covered topics ranging from driving safety and return-to-work stories to our Ohio State Fair booth and conference activities. As always, Fridays are set aside to share fraud related updates. Whatever the topic, we appreciate your readership!

Just in case you missed them, here are the most popular posts from 2018:

  1. Look out for our deer friends on the road
  2. OSC18 – The postgame wrap-up
  3. Back-to-school safety tips for drivers as distracted pedestrian numbers rise
  4. Ohio State Fair tickets up for grabs!
  5. AASCIF 2018: Connecting with industry peers and experts

If there are topics you’d like to read about in 2019, we want to hear from you. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

For now, we wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Safety council brightens Christmas for deceased worker’s family

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

On Nov. 4, 2017, Mison Woo received the life-changing news. That was the day her husband, Gerardo “Jerry” Juarez, died on the job.

The 39-year-old father of five was working as a roofer at a work site in Akron alongside a few colleagues when he slipped on the damp cedar roof of an apartment building, slid to the edge and rolled over a jack board before falling three stories to the ground.

A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed Gerardo and his co-workers were not using fall-arrest equipment and had not received training from their employer on fall hazards. OSHA would eventually fine the employer nearly $150,000.

Since that day, a mother and her family have dealt with the reality of losing a husband and father suddenly and far too soon. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas were especially trying times for a family still coming to terms with such a tragic loss.

A mission to help

A year later, members of the Canton-Akron (CAK) Safety Council made it their mission to give the family a brighter and merrier Christmas. It started with the council’s steering committee floating the idea of the council and NE Ohio OSHA Area Office adopting the family for the holidays. Deb Bailey, BWC’s liaison to the CAK Safety Council, got the greenlight and pitched the idea to OSHA Area Director Howie Eberts. He loved the idea and reached out to the family.

Bailey recalls the council first hearing about Gerardo’s incident and its aftermath when Eberts gave an OSHA update at a council meeting shortly after the fatal incident occurred. For Eberts, the investigation had been different than most.

By coincidence, he met some of the family at the incident site when they came to retrieve Gerardo’s cell phone. Eberts introduced himself to Mison and two of her children who were with her, including her son, Gerardo Jr., and explained why he was at the site. He later recalled Junior’s heartbreaking demeanor.

He told the safety council’s members that when he looked at the son, he saw a look of total disbelief that his father was gone. Eberts, with a family and children of his own, remembered it really hitting home because he wondered what would happen to his family under similar circumstances.

Coming together for a family

Fast forward to the November 2018 CAK Safety Council meeting. At the meeting the council heard the idea of adopting the Juarez family and supported it 100 percent. “Every year, we do something to give back to the community around this time of year,” Bailey says. “Supporting this family, that the council had heard so much about, seemed like the perfect idea.”

That day alone, the council collected $500 in gift card donations for the family. In the weeks after, BWC employees, council members and OSHA employees collected even more. The final tally ended up being more than $2,500 in gifts, cash and gift cards for the family. Last Wednesday, the CAK Safety Council prepped the gifts at the North Canton Chamber of Commerce. Last Friday, Eberts (as Santa) and CAK Safety Council members (his elves) delivered everything to Mison at her workplace.

A year ago, Eberts crossed paths with a family in its darkest hour. This year, he and so many others got to give them some brightness and joy for Christmas.

How to avoid road rage during the season of peace

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

People have a lot to stress about right now. Making six dozen cookies for the neighbor’s cookie exchange. Psyching yourself up for Christmas dinner with the in-laws. Hearing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” for the 20th time in the past 24 hours.

It’s enough to make even the calmest person edgy. Put them behind the wheel of a car, and it can mean real trouble. But in all seriousness, the added stressors of the holidays can contribute to increased instances of road rage. When a driver experiences road rage (as the victim or the perpetrator), the potential to crash a vehicle increases. Road rage usually encompasses four emotions: anger, impatience, competing and punishment.

When people drive angry, it usually shows itself in tell-tale signs, such as: speeding; cutting others off; tailgating; erratic lane changes, etc. Impatience makes drivers feel easily annoyed by other drivers and pedestrians. Impatient drivers react more strongly to things like slower drivers, not being able to pass another vehicle or with pedestrians crossing the street.

The urge to compete can include challenging other drivers when lanes merge or for limited parking spaces. Competing often leads to punishing behaviors such as: blocking other cars trying to merge; riding too close to other cars; cursing and making obscene gestures to other drivers; seeking to encounter another driver.

Never resort to punishing behaviors. If you believe another driver wants to start a fight, seek help – head for a police station. Do not get out of your car, and avoid going home alone. In some states, there are special telephone num­bers to report aggressive drivers. Here in Ohio, you can call 1-800-GRAB DUI.

Thankfully, there are also several strategies we can all take to minimize the potential dangers of road rage, including:

  • Not reacting to provocation – don’t offend, don’t engage.
  • Steering clear of erratic drivers.
  • Avoiding eye contact with aggressive drivers.
  • Using your horn sparingly.
  • Not making obscene gestures.
  • Not switching lanes without signaling.
  • Not blocking the passing lane.
  • Not tailgating.
  • Not taking more than one parking space.
  • Being polite and courteous even if other drivers are not.
  • Avoiding conflict, and allowing plenty of time for your trip.

The potential per­sonal costs of road rage can be high, including crashes, injuries, disabilities and even loss of life. Remember to keep things in perspective when you’re behind the wheel, and give yourself enough time to get to your destination safely – even if it’s to your in-laws’ house.

‘Tis the season for parking-lot perils

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Let’s face it, parking lots can be harrowing under the best of circumstances. Throw in wintry weather and/or holiday shopping, and the mayhem increases exponentially.

However, there are steps you can take to make navigating them a little less scary. First, let’s talk about walking hazards.

Whether you’re at work or at the mall, remember to slow down and focus on walking (putting your phone away helps) when there is snow and ice. Check the weather forecast and plan your footwear accordingly. Snow boots are better than two or three-inch heels when an ice storm is in the forecast. Finally, walk with your feet turned outward and in small shuffling steps when pos­sible. You know, like a duck.

It’s always important to practice personal security in park­ing areas, but even more so when shopping during the holidays.

  • Park in well-lit areas and scan the parking lot for threats while leaving or arriving at your vehicle.
  • Avoid shopping alone whenever possible.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason.
  • Have your keys ready – to help you enter and exit your vehicle quickly.
  • Do not leave new purchases in plain view in your vehicle. Put bags and packages in the trunk.
  • Don’t overload yourself with bags. Doing so makes you an easy target, and can make it easier to slip and fall on ice or snow.
  • Above all – stay alert and aware of your surroundings always. Not to harp on it, but putting your phone away helps.

Limited spaces and frantic shoppers can turn parking lots into a free-for-all at this time of year.

The following tips will make your next trip to the mall safer and happier.

  • Be aware and look in all direc­tions as you travel.
  • Drive slowly and watch for cars that might be cutting diagonally across the lot.
  • Use turn signals and yield the right of way to cars travelling along aisles.
  • Look for spots where you can pull through and face out to prevent the need for backing out.

Try to park in the center of a parking space. Don’t be the person who parks over the line, diagonal or not into a space far enough. Doing so may not give other drivers enough room to park their car without harming yours.

Spending just a little extra time to park will improve your chances of avoiding an accident.