By Stephanie McCloud, Administrator/CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
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.
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.
- Gov. DeWine shares new tool for combating opioid crisis in Ohio (Channel 6, Columbus)
- Bagging a solution for leftover opioids (Toledo Blade, Nov. 3, 2019)
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.
As partners in workplace safety and health, we want you and your employees to have a safe 2020. Specifically, we want to help you prevent workplace injuries by giving your employees up-to-date training.
We have quite a few OSHA-10 and OSHA-30 workshops scheduled in 2020 at various sites across Ohio. See the table below for specific dates and locations. To sign up for one of our courses, visit the BWC Learning Center. Did we mention the courses are free?
|Feb. 4-5||Canton Service Office||Construction Safety Basics|
|Feb. 19-20||Portsmouth Service Office||Construction Safety Basics|
|March 3-4||Oak Harbor (Ottawa County Resource Center)||Construction Safety Basics|
|March 18-19||Youngstown Service Office||Industry Safety Basics|
|March 25-26||Perrysburg (Bowling Green State University)||Industry Safety Basics|
|April 1-2||Pickerington (Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health)||Industry Safety Basics|
|April 21-22||Dayton Service Office||Industry Safety Basics|
|April 22-23||Lima (The Ohio State University at Lima)||Industry Safety Basics|
|May 20-21||Lima (The Ohio State University at Lima)||Construction Safety Basics|
|June 2-3||Cleveland (Indiana Wesleyan University)||Industry Safety Basics|
|June 24-25||Portsmouth Service Office||Industry Safety Basics|
|Jan. 27-31||Dayton Service Office||Construction Safety Principles|
|Jan. 27-31||Youngstown Service Office||Construction Safety Principles|
|Feb. 3-7||Pickerington (Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health)||Construction Safety Principles|
|Feb. 10, 18-21||Canton Service Office||Construction Safety Principles|
|Feb. 10-14||Cincinnati Service Office||Industry Safety Principles|
|Feb. 24-28||Cleveland (Indiana Wesleyan University)||Construction Safety Principles|
|April 13-17||Perrysburg (Bowling Green State University)||Construction Safety Principles|
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
By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer
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.
- Violence against EMS workers a real threat
- This safety council meeting was a life-saver – literally
- Walking down grain is a deadly operation (Don’t do it)
- New online poster archive takes visitors on a safe trip through time
- One year in, Better You, Better Ohio! is improving workers health, well-being
- BWC safety grants save lives, time, and money
- Workplace fatalities are so last century
- OSC19 – It was great to connect with YOU!
- Safety Innovation Awards finalists show their ingenuity
- ‘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!
By Jessie Strait, BWC Communications Department College Intern
According to the National Safety Council, traveling by car during the holidays has the highest fatality rate of any other form of transportation. This is due to heavy traffic, distracted driving, alcohol impairment, and poor weather conditions.
To prevent accidents and injuries on the road, follow these safety tips from the National Safety Council:
- Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your car that includes a first aid kit, a tool kit, cat litter, and nonperishable food items.
- Avoid drowsy driving.
- Plan for traffic and leave early.
- Make sure everyone in the car wears their seatbelt.
- Put away your cellphone. Do NOT text and drive!
- Be a defensive driver.
- Drive sober or have a designated driver.
Also, make sure you pay attention to the forecast. Don’t drive in a snowstorm if you can help it. If you are caught driving in white-out conditions, here are some tips from AAA to help you avoid a crash.
- Drive slowly. Accelerate slowly and decelerate slowly.
- Increase the distance you leave between cars, which should be about 8-10 seconds.
- Use the threshold braking technique: Put your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Avoid coming to a full stop. Keep rolling until the light changes, if you can.
- If you lose traction, steer in the same direction of the skid.
Read more tips on driving in poor weather conditions here.
At BWC we believe it’s vital for our employees to feel safe coming to and leaving work, but we know that can be a challenge with fewer daylight hours this time of year.
We urge all employees to be mindful of their surroundings, safety and security at all times. Our security team has put together these tips for our employees and would like to share so others can do the same.
- On the street, be aware. Don’t stare at your phone or listen to loud music on headphones. Pay attention to your surroundings so you can react quickly if something goes wrong. Trust your instincts.
- On public transit, tell the driver if someone seems suspicious. While you’re waiting for transit to arrive, stand with other people in a well-lit place. When you exit transit, pay attention to who’s leaving with you and seek help in the nearest building if you feel like someone’s following you.
- In your vehicle, never leave your keys in the ignition, and park in well-lit areas. Always lock your vehicle and roll up your windows when you leave. Make sure nothing of value is visible in your parked vehicle.
- At home, lock your doors with deadbolts when you come and go. Don’t leave spare keys outside, no matter how well you hide them. Don’t let strangers into your apartment hallways or lobbies, and always report suspicious people. When you’re on vacation, never leave a message on your voicemail or social media saying you’re not home.
Download these tips to remind your employees to stay safe. Please remember, if you see something or someone that looks odd or suspicious at work, report it to your manager or security office.
By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer
With Cyber Monday behind us and time ticking away to finish all our holiday shopping, many of us will turn to old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores down the final stretch. This also means dealing with parking lot mayhem.
Too few parking spaces and too many shoppers can turn even the calmest among us into stressed-out maniacs and parking lots into a free-for-all. Remember the following tips to make your next trip to the mall safer and happier.
- Be aware, and scan 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.
- If you can find one, park in a spot where you can pull through and face out to prevent the need for backing out.
Don’t be the person who parks over the line, diagonal, or not far enough into a space. Doing so may not give other drivers enough room to park their cars without harming yours. Also, it’s just rude.
Don’t forget to practice personal security in parking areas, especially 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.
- Don’t let would-be thieves do any window shopping. 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.
Once you’re parked, remember to slow down and focus on walking when there is snow and ice (Putting your phone away helps.). Check the weather forecast, and plan your footwear accordingly. Snow boots are better than 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.
By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer
With Thanksgiving just days away, Don Croy has a lot to be thankful for – most of all that he’s still here to celebrate it.
The 63-year-old business owner, father, and grandfather from Ottawa, Ohio, says going to a local safety council meeting in late February literally saved his life.
“I wouldn’t be talking with you today if I hadn’t gone to the meeting that day,” Croy said in a recent interview with BWC. “Without a doubt, it saved my life.”
On Feb. 27, Croy attended the monthly meeting hosted by the Safety Council of Putnam County. The guest speaker – local firefighter/paramedic Crystal Plumpe – gave a presentation about heart attacks in the workplace. After the meeting, Croy went about his workday as president of his landscaping business, Croy’s Mowing Ltd.
Timing is everything
Later that day, Croy, who serves as a trustee for Ottawa Township, was at home before the trustees’ meeting that night and felt like he had a case of heartburn, which was unusual for him.
With Plumpe’s presentation still fresh in his mind, he told his wife, Teresa, the symptoms weren’t going away and he might need to see a doctor. She took him to an emergency room a mile from their home.
While there, he suffered a full-blown heart attack, was placed in an ambulance and rushed to Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima.
“In the ambulance I was fighting for every breath. I was trying to keep my eyes open,” he recalled. “I closed my eyes briefly and when I opened them, one of the medics was standing over me with shock paddles.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, he was taken immediately to surgery and received a heart stent. After a few days of recovery, he returned to the office and began easing himself back into running his business.
“When you go to a seminar, you’ll always learn at least one thing,” said Croy. “That morning I learned if you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t wait to get help. Eleven hours later, that knowledge is what kept me from dying. Who would have known?”
Plumpe said she’s just glad Croy took what he had just learned and realized not to downplay his symptoms.
“He told me that before my class, he would have told himself to ‘man up’ and ignore his signs and symptoms,” she recalled. “Based on what he told me happened that evening after my class, he probably wouldn’t be alive today if he would have ignored what his body was telling him.”
Amy Sealts, director of economic development for Putnam County and the safety council’s coordinator, vividly remembers the conversation she had with Croy after his heart attack and recovery.
“He was emotional when I talked to him the day after the heart attack,” Sealts recalled. “I remember him saying, ‘That lady saved my life.’ I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
Thankful to still be here
A week and a half after his ordeal, Croy made an emotional visit to the Bath Township Fire Department, where Plumpe works as a platoon chief, to thank her for saving his life.
“In the fire and EMS profession, we rarely get to meet those that we impact in a positive way, after the fact,” said Plumpe. “The few times that we do, we treasure. To see Don face to face and hear him say that I saved his life was pretty amazing.”
Months later, Croy still thinks about his brush with death and how fortunate he is to be alive.
“It really hits me when I see my sons and my grandkids,” he explained. “I’ve always appreciated my life, but I appreciate it more now. I’ve always looked at the roses, but now I take the time to smell them, too.”