Feeling the heat? Stay safe with preventive measures

By Isayah Hickson, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

Click on graphic for full size image. Courtesy of the National Weather Service.

A glance at the thermometer tells the story: we’re officially in the dog days of summer.

This means we’re in the hottest part of the season and at greater risk of heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Heat exhaustion is a result of the body
overheating. Common symptoms may include heavy sweating, dizziness, fainting, and rapid pulse.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It occurs when the body’s core temperature rises too high and its natural cooling system stops working. Symptoms may include an altered mental state, lack of perspiration, rash, muscle cramps, exhaustion, and stroke.

Who is at risk?
The risk of heat illness is greatest for workers in hot/humid environments and outdoor workers. People who are obese, have high blood pressure, heart disease, and those over 65 years old may be more susceptible to heat illnesses.

Prevention methods
Below are helpful reminders when working in heat and humidity.

  • Drink one glass (or equivalent) of water every 15 to 30 minutes worked, depending on conditions.
  • Take frequent breaks (five to 10 minutes per hour) to cool down and replenish.
  • Know how prescription drugs you take react to sun and heat exposure.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and non-prescribed drugs.
  • Build up tolerance to the heat (called acclimatization) by initially limiting the physical activity and exposure to the heat and gradually increasing these over a one- to two-week period.
  • Manage work activities and pair them to employees’ physical conditions. Adapt work and pace to the weather.
  • Use special protective gear (if available), such as cooling garments and cooling vests on “early entry” workers.
  • Know and review first-aid techniques for heat-related conditions.

There’s an app for that
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a smart phone app – the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool – to assess heat stress risk where outdoor activities are planned. You can download it on the App Store or Google Play.

Take these safety steps whether mowing at work or home

By Kennedy Gardner, BWC Occupational Safety and Hygiene Fellow

In recent weeks, four Ohio workers suffered serious injuries while operating lawn mowers.

The injured workers included:

  • A 44-year-old male working in Massillon who died in a mower rollover.
  • A 21-year-old male working in North Canton who suffered multiple injuries in a mower rollover.
  • A 47-year-old male working in Cleveland who suffered multiple amputations from contact with a running mower blade.
  • A 75-year-old male in Chillicothe who suffered multiple injuries in a mower rollover.

Events like these are reminders of the dangers associated with lawn mowing. Whether you’re mowing for work or in your own yard, below are safety tips for operating either a push or riding lawn mower this summer.

Before using any type of lawn mower, make sure to read the instruction manual and ensure the mower is in good working order. Many injuries come from items being thrown from the spinning blades of the lawn mower. Before starting, clear the mowing area of potential flying objects such as:

  • Toys.
  • Stones.
  • Sticks and smaller tree limbs.
  • Trash and other debris.

Avoid running over any objects and steer clear of immovable objects (e.g., trees and large rocks). Also, users should always wear personal protective equipment, including hearing/eye protection and closed-toe shoes.

Another common injury from lawn mowers are cuts. These injuries often occur when sharp mower blades contact hands, feet or other body parts. It may seem like common sense, but never insert hands or feet into the mower or the discharge chute to remove grass or debris. Even if the lawnmower is turned off, the blades could still be spinning and cause a serious injury. Also, only use a mower that has protection from the hot and sharp parts of the equipment, and never remove these safety devices.

The risk of rollover increases when using a riding lawn mower on a hill or slope. When using a riding mower on a slope:

  • Make sure the roll over protection system (ROPS) is in place.
  • Never use a riding lawn mower on a slope greater than 15%.
  • Slow down and use caution when making turns and changing directions.
  • Never start or stop a riding mower when it is going uphill or downhill. Avoid all sudden starts, stops or turns.
  • If the tires lose traction, disengage the blades and proceed slowly straight down the slope.

Unfortunately, lawn mower accidents are the leading cause of amputations among children, with 600 of the 800 injuries involving children in the United States resulting in an amputation. The best way to avoid these horrific accidents is to keep children inside during mowing, and never let a child ride or sit on the lap of the mower operator. Also, keep pets inside when mowing the lawn as well to avoid unnecessary injuries or accidents.

Always keep safety as a priority and be cautious when mowing the lawn this summer. #summertimesafety

12 fireworks safety tips for a celebratory Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is an exciting time for friends and family to gather and celebrate America.

While most Independence Days are filled with fireworks, cookouts and parades, this holiday can also be one of the most dangerous.

On average, 280 people visit the emergency room every day around July 4th with fireworks-related injuries. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year. On average, fireworks cause 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires resulting in injury each year.

The National Safety Council strongly advises leaving fireworks to the professionals and staying away from all consumer fireworks. However, if you are planning to set off your own fireworks this Fourth of July, below are some essential tips to keep your friends and family safe:

  1. Make sure setting off your own fireworks is legal in your area before you buy or ignite any fireworks.
  2. Make sure you have a large open area in which to set off your fireworks that is free of tree branches or power lines. Never light fireworks indoors or near people or animals.
  3. When purchasing your fireworks, avoid ones that are packaged in brown paper – those are typically made for professional displays and should not be used by amateurs.
  4. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks; always ensure anyone under the age of 18 is accompanied by an adult when setting off fireworks.
  5. When lighting your fireworks, do not place any part of your body directly over the fireworks. Also, back up to a safe distance immediately upon lighting, and never light more than one firework at a time.
  6. If a firework has not been fully ignited, do not pick it up or try to re-light it.
  7. Never point or throw a firework at another person or animal.
  8. Be sure to keep a hose, bucket of water or fire extinguisher close by.
  9. Do not put fireworks in your pockets.
  10. Never shoot off fireworks from glass or metal containers.
  11. Once your fireworks have been ignited and set off, pour a bucket of water over the top before moving, handling or throwing the remains away.
  12. Remember that sparklers are also fireworks and should be handled carefully.

The above rules of thumb should be followed for any type of firework.

Celebrate responsibility this Fourth of July and follow the above safety tips when setting off any size firework.

An even better idea is to head to your local park with a blanket and some snacks and enjoy your area’s professional fireworks show!

Be Safe Ohio!

Physician’s note: Start the back-to-work conversation

A first-appointment transitional plan can help an injured worker before the claim is approved

By Adam King, BWC Public Information Officer

Constance was working a late shift when she slipped and fell. She jarred her arm and wrist trying to catch herself and twisted her back as she landed awkwardly.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) legally can’t start helping Constance until the injury is reported and a decision is made on allowing Constance’s claim.

But if Constance’s employer has a transitional work program in place, the doctor can immediately assess how to get her back to work safely and as quickly as possible. The employer can act without waiting for the claim allowance.

That’s the message David Holdsworth and Kimberly Kremer, technical medical specialists at BWC, conveyed during their seminar to provider staff during BWC’s 2019 Medical & Health Symposium. Employers who are proactive improve their injured workers’ outcomes.

“In almost every instance, that is better for the worker,” Holdsworth said of immediately implementing a transitional work plan. “The longer they’re off work, the less likely they are to return. When they’re back on the job, it creates stability in their family, finances and self-esteem.”

More than 50% of injured employees off work for six months or more never return to their original job. Companies lose their entire investment in onboarding and training. That’s thousands to tens of thousands of dollars or more. It also can mean the loss of a valuable team member and co-worker.

Physicians, Holdsworth and Kremer said, play a crucial role, too. During a first visit, the physician should ask Constance if her employer has a transitional work plan. She might not know. She might not think it applies to her injuries. But having that initial communication can speed up the recovery process.

The physician determines whether Constance can safely return to work and in what capacity. Taking on temporary transitional work duties will allow her to heal as her capacity to work increases.

It turns out Constance’s employer has a transitional work plan in place and has already assessed the physical requirements for every job position. It’s an easy process for her employer to identify which work tasks Constance can perform based on her restrictions. The employer offers Constance the modified job duties and she accepts. She’s able to keep working even as her workers’ comp claim is under review.

Once BWC allows the claim, Constance’s physician has several more options to support her efforts to get her back on the job. These vocational rehabilitation programs include remain at work, job retention and return to work.

Remain at work: Constance has missed work, less than eight days, and is now back at work. But she’s experiencing difficulties and might lose more time. Constance, her physician or her employer can identify her job difficulties and ask the employer’s managed care organization (MCO) to request specialized services so she can keep working. Her physician sets her work limitations and rehab needs, and the MCO authorizes the services. These are usually on-site and can include transitional work therapy, physical evaluation or restoration, job modifications, tools and equipment and job retraining.

“One of the first services in remain at work might be transitional work services,” said Kremer. “A physical or occupational therapist comes to the job site to provide interventions that help the worker adjust to the job’s physical demands.”

Job retention: Constance has been off work for more than eight days (which makes her workers’ comp claim a lost-time claim. This means she is drawing temporary total compensation or salary continuation). She returns to work and is still having difficulty doing her original job. Her physician and employer identify her issues returning to full duty and ask the MCO for a vocational rehab referral. Constance must voluntarily agree to the interventions.

Return to work: Constance has not been able to return to work, and there’s a question whether her injuries will allow her to do her job. A vocational rehabilitation manager works with the MCO and BWC to see if Constance can return to her original job or modify her role within the company. If not, they will work with her to find a new employer where the goal is to restore Constance to a similar level of work and earnings. Constance doesn’t need to be at full health to be a return-to-work participant if she can benefit from the services and is likely to return to work as a result.

“At any stage of injury recovery, BWC’s vocational rehabilitation programs offer avenues for workers to achieve their original quality of life or close to it,” Holdsworth said. “Returning to work is critical to an employee’s well-being, and that’s why it’s important for the employer, physician and MCO to be strong partners in their recovery.”

For more information about these programs, email our Rehab Policy team at Policy.R.1@bwc.state.oh.us or call our Customer Contact Center at 800-644-6292 and ask for Rehab Policy.

BWC, area fire departments offering safety stand-down events this week

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer

Statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show firefighters have a 9% higher risk of a cancer diagnosis and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public.

The 2019 Firefighter Stand-Down, happening this week, is focusing on this hazard with its theme – Reduce Your Exposure: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility. We are partnering with a number of Ohio fire departments this week to provide training related to the national stand-down and the theme of reducing exposure to cancer-causing elements on the job.

Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20 – 1 p.m.
The Eastlake Fire Department will host an event for area fire departments covering:

Other participating departments include Mentor, Kirkland, Wickliffe, Willowick, Willoughby and Willoughby Hills. Event address: 35150 Lakeshore Blvd., Eastlake, Ohio 44095

Thursday, June 20 – 10 a.m.
The Whitehouse Fire Department and Waterville Fire Department will co-host an event at the Whitehouse Fire Department. The agenda includes info about:

Event address: 10550 Waterville St., Whitehouse, Ohio 43571

Thursday, June 20 – 6 p.m.
The City of Washington Court House Fire Department will host an event for volunteer fire departments in Fayette County. It will focus on the department’s decontamination practices and an update from BWC’s PERRP. Event address: 225 E. Market St., Washington Court House, Ohio 43160.

Learn more about BWC grants for firefighters
To help protect firefighters from carcinogens and other harmful toxins, we offer the Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program. Started in FY 2018, the program has issued nearly $6.5 million to date to help more than 600 fire departments across the state purchase specialized, life-saving equipment, removing cost as a barrier.

Walking the walk: BWC, Ohio connect recovery to employment at the Kennedy Forum

By Dr. Terrence Welsh, BWC Chief Medical Officer, Forum panel member

I was honored to be a part of last week’s Kennedy Forum 2019 in Chicago! The mission of this annual event is to create lasting change in the way mental health and addictions are treated in our healthcare system.

The forum envisions parity in access to services, transparency in communication and a better understanding and perception of these brain diseases by the public. It addressed accomplishing these goals through healthcare integration, improved technology, and brain health and fitness.

Workplace well-being

The focus this year was on workplace well-being, specifically as it relates to mental illness and substance use. The forum recognized the work we’ve done in our Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program, which supports businesses that hire workers in recovery.

It also recognized Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s support for this program and the Recovery Ohio Plan he launched as attorney general. The governor’s commitment to workers in recovery breaks through stigma, injects hope, and rebuilds families and lives.

I participated in a panel discussion entitled, “Walking the Walk: Prioritizing Mental Health in Your Hiring and Managing Processes.” The panel featured an amazing group, including Dr. Kelly Clark, Past President, American Society of Addiction Medicine; Geralyn Giorgio, Talent Acquisition, Johnson and Johnson; Carol Kivler, MS, CSP, CMT, national mental health speaker and mental wellness advocate, and David Quilleon, Senior VP, Best Buddies International.

BWC Chief Medical Officer Terry Welsh, far right, stands with panel members of “Walking the Walk” at the Kennedy Forum June 11.

Opioids and our workforce

It’s humbling to hear about the magnificent work these people and their organizations are doing, but also encouraging to know Ohio is a leader in finding solutions to the impact of opioids on our workforce. BWC and Ohio are definitely “walking the walk.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addresses an audience at the Kennedy Forum.

As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who addressed the forum, said so well, “It takes courage to address these issues, and we ultimately need to see ourselves in the people we serve.”

The dividends are to our businesses, our workforce, our communities. All of us have been affected, and all of us can be a part of breaking the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorder.

Taking the first step

None of us can “walk the walk” without taking the first step. I want to thank all of those in recovery and our business community for having the courage to do so. I hope others will follow their lead. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

 

BWC chief executive visits southwest Ohio businesses to mark National Safety Month

Companies used BWC safety grants to reduce workplace hazards

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud, second from left, visits staff at the nonprofit Friends of the Castle in Centerville. The business used a $20,000 BWC safety grant to purchase an elevator for clients with mental and physical disabilities.

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud visited a nonprofit business in Centerville and a craft brewery in Cincinnati today to mark National Safety Month and thank the businesses for investing in safety.

In her morning visit to the nonprofit Friends of the Castle in the Dayton suburb of Centerville, McCloud watched staff operate an elevator the business purchased last year with a $20,000 safety grant from BWC. She later joined staff at MadTree Brewing Co. in Cincinnati to watch a $40,000 safety grant in action inside the brewery’s production area.

“It is truly gratifying to see our grant dollars at work for such a good cause — keeping employees safe on the job so they can return home healthy and whole each day,” said McCloud. “We are creating a culture of safety across this state, and it’s my hope employers across the state will follow the example of Friends of the Castle and MadTree Brewing.”

Friends of the Castle is a drop-in facility that annually serves 150 people with severe and persistent mental health disorders. Located at a converted residence, the facility offers peer support and activities that foster life and social skills. The company used BWC’s grant to purchase and install a vertical platform lift, similar to an elevator, to help staff and clients who struggle with stairs access the second floor.

 “We are a safe haven and a stepping stone for people who want to be a productive part of our community,” said Lisa Hansford, Executive Director of Friends of the Castle. “This grant made an immediate impact here, not only by reducing the risk of injuries, but by allowing us to expand our programs and services.”

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud talks to head brewer Ryan Blevins at MadTree Brewing Tuesday about the dry-hop injection system, left, the business purchased with a BWC safety grant.

MadTree used BWC’s grant to purchase a dry hop injection system and an in-line bottle labeler and ink jet coder. The injection system eliminated the need for workers to climb ladders to add hops to fermentation tanks; the labeler reduced the risk for repetitive stress injuries.

“I have no doubt that we’ve avoided numerous injuries with the equipment the BWC grant helped us purchase,” said Ryan Blevins, MadTree Brewing’s head brewer. “Having to carry heavy buckets of hops up 40-foot ladders 20-plus times a day was a disaster waiting to happen.”

BWC allocates $20 million a year to its Safety Grant program, which funds equipment designed to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses for employers covered by the BWC system.

Observed each June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in homes and communities.

“We promote safety all year long,” said McCloud, “but National Safety Month is a great time for employers to reassess safety in their workplaces and commit to a safety mindset each and every day.”