BWC nurse battles COVID-19 on front lines

May is National Nurses Month. BWC nurse tells her story.

By Jennifer Wolford RN, Medical Service Specialist, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

Away from my BWC job as a medical service specialist, I work as an intermittent nurse in an emergency department (ED) at an Akron-area hospital on weekends. Since the community spread of COVID-19 began, being an ED nurse means the odds of being exposed again and again to this virus are virtually guaranteed.

BWC nurse Jennifer Wolford, RN, works on weekends in the emergency department at an Akron-area hospital.

My colleagues and I can’t see this invisible killer, of course, but we see its impact on our patients and on each other. Not just the physical symptoms, but the fear — you can see it on their faces, you can feel it. We’ve watched patients die from this disease.

I wear a face mask and face shield for my entire 12-hour shift to protect myself and my co-workers. After my shift ends, I cover my car seat with a towel and wipe down my door handles, steering wheel, and other parts with Clorox wipes. When I come home, I immediately put my clothes into the washing machine on sanitize. I use a Clorox wipe to clean anything I touched.

After I shower, I again sanitize everything I touched. I keep a safe distance from my family. Basically, I treat myself as though I actually have COVID-19 because we know people with the disease might have it for days and weeks without showing any symptoms.

This is my life. I have a son with multiple disabilities; I can’t take any risks. Until there is a vaccine, my reality looks a lot different – this is my new normal.

Respect the virus

This is everybody’s new normal, actually. That’s why I support Governor Mike DeWine’s encouragement for all of us to wear a face mask in public where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. You may believe you don’t have the virus, or you may feel silly wearing a mask, but none of us is safe from this disease.

Case in point: My family has a friend who is just 58 and otherwise healthy, no co-morbidities. He had the coronavirus and was on a ventilator for nearly three weeks. Thankfully, he is recovering now. Unlike my friend’s mom, my ex-husband’s stepfather, and perhaps someone you know, too.

A colleague asked me the other day, “You work at BWC now, why put yourself at risk working in an emergency department, especially these days?”

I’m a nurse, I told him. It’s what we do.

The American Nurses Association promotes May as Nurses Month to support and recognize nurses for their contributions in crises and for their ongoing roles in meeting the needs of patients and their communities.

In challenging times, BWC delivers

Up to $1.6 billion for employers among several measures aimed at weakening COVID-19’s impact

#InThisTogetherOhio

By Stephanie McCloud, BWC Administrator/CEO

One of our core values at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is Relentless Excellence — we are unyielding in our delivery of outstanding service to our customers.

Not just sometimes or in ordinary times, but all the time. This includes the extraordinary times we find ourselves in today given the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents to our economy and virtually every facet of our daily lives.

I hope our customers — Ohio’s injured workers and our employer community — would agree. When the COVID-19 crisis emerged in early March, Governor Mike DeWine called on his agencies, including BWC, to do all we can to support our fellow Ohioans and our business community through these unprecedented times.

We’re doing our best. Take a look.

  • We are sending our private and public employers up to $1.6 billion this month — 100% of the premium they paid in policy year 2018 — to ease COVID-19’s impact on their bottom line and our economy. We started sending checks on Monday, April 20, and should wrap up by Monday, April 27.
  • Before our Board of Directors approved our dividend April 10, we deferred premium payments for employers for March, April, and May until June 1.

“BWC will not cancel coverage or assess penalties for amounts not paid because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted, announcing the deferment on March 21 during Governor DeWine’s daily press briefing. “Installment payments due for the three-month period are totaled at approximately $200 million, and that money will now stay in the economy.”

  • We are working with injured workers to gather the necessary medical evidence to continue benefits that were set to expire on April 30.
  • We have created a special team to handle the newly filed COVID-19 claims to provide them with careful attention.
  • We relaxed or waived deadlines for the following programs that save employers money on their premiums. We are applying the discounts automatically.

– Drug Free Safety Program.
– Grow Ohio.
– EM Cap.
– Industry Specific Safety Program.
– One Claim Program.
– Policy Activity Rebate Program.

  • When Governor DeWine and other state leaders called on all Ohioans to help shore up Ohio’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, BWC responded. Our employees across Ohio uncovered and donated hundreds of N-95 masks, safety goggles, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizers, wipes and more.
  • We have stopped pursuing collections efforts.
  • We continue to make timely payments to our medical providers.
  • We are embracing the use of telemedicine to help injured workers connect with their medical and therapy providers.
  • We continue to issue new workers’ comp policies.
  • We are temporarily waiving some annual requirements for self-insured businesses to ensure they continue operations with certificates of coverage.

Here are some other actions our state is taking to help us through this difficult time:

  • Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted have launched a new “Ohio, Find It Here” campaign to help residents support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit ohio.org/SupportLocalOhio.
  • The state is asking residents and businesses who can donate personal protective equipment (PPE), or any other essential service or resource, to please email Together@Governor.Ohio.Gov.
  • Ohioans can apply for unemployment benefits online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at ohio.gov. It is also possible to file by phone at 877-644-6562 or TTY at 888-642-8203, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Employers with questions should email UCTech@jfs.ohio.gov.

Clearly, business is NOT as usual in Ohio, but our work continues, and we remain committed to excellent service for our customers.

Remember — We are #InThisTogetherOhio.

For more on our programs, visit bwc.ohio.gov. For more on COVID-19 as it relates to BWC, visit this Frequently Asked Questions page. For other questions about COVID-19 related to BWC, you can email BWCCOVID19@bwc.state.oh.us.

For the latest on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit the Ohio Department of Health website coronavirus.ohio.gov, or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

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.

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.

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