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.”

National Safety Month targets preventable accidents

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

According to the National Safety Council’s (NSC’s) Injury Facts, three people in the U.S. die every 10 minutes from preventable accidents.

To raise awareness of the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road, and in our homes and communities, the NSC designates each June as National Safety Month. Once again, the NSC will focus on a safety issue each week of the month.

This first week starts with a logical topic: Hazard recognition. After all, the best way to avoid a hazard is to recognize it exists. The NSC says, “Once you train yourself to spot hazards, you’ll notice them all around you. They may not always be obvious or immediate concerns, but they can still pose a risk to you and your co-workers. The sooner they’re fixed, the better.”

This Learn to See Hazards tip sheet has helpful information to get you started. In the coming weeks the NSC will focus on:

  • Slips, trips and falls.
  • Fatigue.
  • And impairment.

The NSC has free materials, including posters, tip sheets, articles, family activities, special offers, social graphics and more. Go to the NSC website to sign up to receive these materials.

We encourage you to take advantage of the resources the NSC offers to keep you, your co-workers and your family safe this month and throughout the year.

Share your knowledge at OSC20!

By Julie Darby Martin, BWC Safety Congress Manager

Do you have the experience to help make workplaces safer and healthier? Are you comfortable speaking to a crowd?

If so, you could be a presenter at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2020 (OSC20), the nation’s largest occupational-focused safety and health event. We’re now accepting presentation proposals for this multi-day event, scheduled for March 11 – 13, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

OSC20 will feature more than 200 educational sessions taught by experts from across the nation. Topics include:

  • Safety management.
  • Government and regulation.
  • Health, wellness and rehabilitation.
  • Emergency preparedness and response.
  • Workers’ compensation.
  • Driving and transportation.
  • Training and education.
  • Personal protective equipment.
  • And much more.

We are seeking one-hour educational sessions, panel discussions, live demonstrations as well as three-hour and six-hour workshops. Typical attendees include occupational safety and risk-management directors, workers’ compensation managers, health and wellness leaders, and individuals with an interest in occupational safety and health, wellness and rehabilitation of injured workers.

OSC20 will also offer a virtual conference element. This live-stream format will allow viewers to attend a track of sessions from their personal computer or mobile device. When submitting your proposal, you will have the option to express interest in, opt-out of or pose questions regarding your session being considered for the virtual conference.

We’re accepting applications until July 19. For application guidelines and to submit your proposal, visit our call for presentations site. Want to see highlights from our most recent event? Check out our OSC19 Twitter recap.

It’s no accident: BWC safety staffer earns industry award

By Tony Gottschlich, Public Information Officer

When industrial hygienist Phillip Rauscher talks about his job with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), he sounds like a third-grader on the morning of a school field trip to the zoo.

“Every day is a field trip for me,” said the smiling five-year veteran of BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene. “I visit employers all over northwest Ohio to identify and remediate safety hazards so no one gets sick or injured on the job. It’s extremely satisfying work, and I never get tired of it.”

He’s apparently good at it, too. That’s why Rauscher earned this year’s John J. Bloomfield Award from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). The award recognizes a young industrial hygienist who pursues the problem of occupational health hazards primarily by doing fieldwork.

In a news release, the ACGIH noted Rauscher’s “outstanding contributions to the industrial hygiene profession” and “exemplary” impact as a practitioner and a leader.

“I was grinning ear to ear when I was notified about the award,” said Rauscher, 31, the fourth BWC employee to capture the award in its 40-year history and the first in 21 years. “On top of that, it was my birthday, so it was a pretty good day.”

Rauscher, who is based in BWC’s Toledo service office, was honored May 22 at the ACGIH’s conference in Minneapolis. He was nominated by BWC colleague Jeff Hutchins, a 1993 Bloomfield award winner.

“It is obvious that this is more than just a job to him — he has a real passion for occupational safety and health that comes through in his interaction with peers and customers alike,” said Hutchins, who manages the Safety and Hygiene division’s technical advisors. “He has that rare combination of extremely high-level technical skills and great interpersonal skills that allow him to effectively communicate complex concepts to a wide variety of audiences.”

Making a difference

Rauscher said he knew early in his BWC career that he could make a positive difference in the lives of working Ohioans.

In his first weeks on the job, for instance, he visited a metal grinding business cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for producing excessive metal dust without proper ventilation.

“It was so bad the employees were wearing respirators all the time while they were working,” he said. “But respirators aren’t a perfect system. You think you’re protected but it’s not 100 percent protection.”

Rauscher provided guidance on a ventilation system that improved the workplace air quality, met OSHA standards and allowed workers to remove their respirators — all at no extra charge to the employer. BWC’s safety services are covered by employer premiums.

BWC Industrial Hygienist Phil Rauscher measures noise levels in a Toledo factory earlier this month.

“A private consultant would charge up to $300 an hour and cost thousands by the day,” Rauscher noted.

Among several academic and industry credentials, Rauscher earned his bachelor’s degree in public health with a minor in chemistry from Youngstown State University. He earned a master’s in environmental/ occupational health from the University of Toledo. He’s currently working online for a master’s degree in advanced safety engineering management from The University of Arkansas, Birmingham.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Mansfield, Rauscher lives in Bowling Green today on an 11-acre farm with his wife Mollie and two children.

Other Bloomfield winners from BWC include Scott Hayes (1998) and Mark Ashworth (1990).