Striving for world class

By Bill Teets, BWC Communications Director

It is no secret that successful organizations have a strong sense of direction and purpose. At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, we want to be a world class insurer.

We have a clear mission to “protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.” Keep people safe. Make them better when they’re hurt. Do it effectively to not over-burden business. We also have a core set of values—service, simplicity and savings—that guide us.

While these are essential to being world class, they’re not enough. As communications director for BWC, I spend much of my time discovering all the great things happening here and sharing them with the outside world. There are so many stories to tell. Great investing has helped us return $3 billion in rebates over the last several years. Ohio’s injury rates are below the national average and our claims are at record lows. We’re finding ways to speed care to the injured and our nationally recognized pharmacy management program has drastically reduced opioid usage among injured workers.

What I’ve learned from telling these stories is that world class organizations have world class people. Our mission and values may guide us, but ultimately, it is the people that deliver on those promises. Several recent accolades prove my point.

Recently, our Chief of Enterprise Services, Shadya Yazback was named a C-Suite Award Winner by Columbus Business First. In their own words, “the C-Suite Awards recognizes Central Ohio’s top executives for their contribution and commitment to the community and their outstanding professional performance.”

This year’s 19 winners were selected by a panel of business school professors in Ohio. Among her achievements at BWC is the implementation of a multi-year, multi-million dollar replacement of our core claims and policy management systems—systems used by more than half our 1,800 employees to serve Ohio’s injured workers and employers. It was not always a smooth transition, but as the driver of the process she proved world-class people are able to adapt and keep an organization driving toward a common goal.

Kendra DePaul is another example of our world-class staff. Kendra has been named as one of 11 NexGen award winners by the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). She achieved this accolade for leading Ohio’s effort to build our Other States Coverage and managing the program. Because of this program, Ohio employers who do business in other states have options that make life easier when it comes to covering their employees.

That same organization awarded our pharmacy department the second annual IAIABC Innovation Award. That entry, “Saving Lives — Building a Model Pharmacy Program Amid a Deadly Epidemic” reflects Ohio’s efforts to reduce opioid abuse and excessive prescribing of the painkillers while building a pharmacy program that’s recognized as a leader in the industry today. Because of the pharmacy department efforts, led by John Hanna, who just retired, we have reduced the number of injured workers dependent on opioids from 8,000 in 2011 to 4,100 today. You can point to policies, but it was John and his people who took the initiative to make this reality.

Three world-class accomplishments. Three world-class people. And that’s just the tip of these iceberg. At BWC, we have 1,800 other dedicated individuals who work every day to help keep workplaces safe, get the injured back to their lives, and help reduce bureaucratic obstacles to their success. Not a bad place to work.

One pair and no spare!

By Stephanie Koscher, Director of Marketing and Community Services, Prevent Blindness Ohio

Your eyes! Just think about it. You have two eyes that need protection at work and at home. When it comes to vision health and safety, there is no Plan B! A second pair of eyes are not an option.

Eye injuries often occur at the workplace. In 2013, more than 94,000 individuals received treatment at an emergency room due to a work-related or home-related eye injury.

Power tools cause the largest number of eye injuries per year with welding and workshop grinders, buffers and polishers as a close second and third respectively. Appropriate safety goggles or glasses are vital to avoid eye injuries.

Once someone sustains an eye injury, their chance of developing glaucoma also increases. The importance of preventing eye injuries cannot be overstated.

Eye protection must meet the American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection (ANSI Z-87). The Z-87 notation must be marked on the protection piece. If an individual wears corrective lenses, the industrial lenses can be manufactured to fit a prescription.

Individuals that work outside may be exposing their eyes to dangerous ultraviolet rays. Extended time in the sun can impact the cornea, lens and retina of the eye. Eye diseases, such as cataracts, may develop earlier due to this exposure. Sunglasses that provide he eyes protection from both UVA and UVB rays should be worn at all times.

Everyone should receive a comprehensive eye examination at least every two years.

An individual with diabetes should receive an eye examination every year. Although your doctor’s recommendation is the gold standard, this is a simple guideline for maintaining healthy vision.

Key considerations

  • Wear appropriate safety goggles or glasses in a work environment that includes chemicals, flying objects, power tools and lawn equipment.
  • Working outdoors requires eye protection from the sunlight’s damaging rays.
  • Everyone should receive a comprehensive eye examination a minimum of every two years.
  • An eye injury can have lasting effects for a lifetime.

For more information and to access eye safety fact sheets, please visit Prevent Blindness Ohio’s website, or call Prevent Blindness at 800-301-2020.

Collaboration among states improves program

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

In late August, underwriting consultant Julie Phillips and I traveled to the User’s Conference for Other States Coverage. The conference was hosted by United States Insurance Services (USIS) who is the vendor we work with, along with Zurich American Insurance to offer workers’ comp coverage outside the state of Ohio.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, workers’ compensation can be complicated for employers working in multiple states as each state has different rules and laws that must be followed. The Other States Coverage program allows BWC and several other state’s funds to assist their policyholders with securing proper coverage nationwide.

The purpose of the annual conference is to get together with the other states to discuss program results, best practices and troubleshoot common questions.

There are six other state funds in the program and in 2016 about 3,000 policies were issued collectively. The majority of the policies are small, with 68% being under $5,000 in premium. Although there are some large accounts, the collective group has primarily embraced this program to offer coverage options for smaller employers.

Around the meeting table it was clear that the reason each of the state funds offered this option is because they cared deeply about their policyholders and wanted to assist them with being successful. The issue with coverage and claims in a multitude of different states is not unique to Ohio. Each of these state’s funds have dealt with similar issues of employees hired in one state and injured in another, or with employers being fined for not having coverage in a specific state. It is also clear that some states are harder to work with than others and require multiple forms to be filed when policies are issued there.

A big push at this User’s Conference is for each state to share lessons learned or tools created to make the program more efficient for each user. One example of this has to do with schedule rating forms. Schedule rating is an available premium adjustment on private workers’ comp policies. An insurer can offer debits or credits for unique conditions of an employer.

For every policy we issue we are required to complete a form stating whether a schedule rating was used and the specific reasons why. Most states have a separate form for this purpose and if you issue a policy in multiple states, multiple forms are often required.

In an effort to reduce the time spent completing these forms, Julie Phillips took the initiative to create an Excel tool where policy information only has to be entered once and then is populated to multiple forms and saved as a PDF document. This new format has allowed our underwriters to spend much less time completing individual forms. Julie presented the Excel tool at the User’s Conference so they could begin taking advantage of it as well.

I am thankful for Julie’s hard work in completing this and I am continuously impressed by the collaborative spirit of all the state funds involved in the program. Each of them has offered assistance as we continue to improve our Other States Coverage program in Ohio. We all have the same goal of providing excellent customer service to our policyholders. Working together, I am confident we will do just that.

Total Worker Health – the next step in workplace evolution

By Greg Williams, BWC Occupational Safety and Hygiene Fellow

When I was little I remember hearing stories of the Industrial Revolution in school. I remember accounts of children, my age or younger, having to go to work to support their families, often in abhorrent conditions.

Eastern Illinois University describes it this way: “Young children working endured some of the harshest conditions. Workdays would often be 10 to 14 hours with minimal breaks during the shift. Factories employing children were often very dangerous places leading to injuries and even deaths.  Machinery often ran so quickly that little fingers, arms and legs could easily get caught.”

While working conditions were abhorrent for children, they weren’t any better for their parents. Wages were dismal, hours were long and workplaces put safety on the backburner in favor of production.

One of the worst industrial accidents took place in 1911 in the Triangle Factory in New York City. Cramped conditions, inadequate exits, and an inability of workers to speak out for their safety led to a fire killing scores of workers.

We look back upon these stories and wonder how it could have ever been this way. Who would let a 6-year-old work in a factory? Who would expose workers to such dangerous hazards? Why didn’t someone intervene?

A lot has changed since then. It’s been more than a century, and laws prohibit children from working under a certain age. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates conditions in workplaces around the country. The number of workers losing their lives on the job is lower than it has ever been. Indeed it seems like we have it all figured out, right?

That’s when I think about where we will be a hundred years from now. What conditions do we subject individuals to now that our great-great grandchildren will find appalling? What will they teach in schools in the year 2117 about labor in the year 2017? What are the next steps we should be taking to care for workers in the 21st century?

The answer to this question is simple. Instead of sending workers home the same way we found them, we need to send them home better than we found them. This is the idea behind Total Worker Health, a program put in place by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This program takes a comprehensive look at worker well-being. Not only does it promote following OSHA standards, but it also advocates proper benefits and policies for employees, commitment to wellness from employers, comprehensive wellness programs for workers, and so much more.

The idea driving this TWH approach is that the workplace is a perfect environment to implement health and safety interventions. It makes sense. The most recent employment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that around 140 million people are currently working in the U.S. American businesses lose trillions of dollars each year in productivity, absenteeism and medical costs. Where better to try and intervene in the health, safety and wellness of individuals than the place they spend half their day?

This mindset led BWC to partner with NIOSH on research and initiatives to better the lives of workers both on and off the clock.

We’re also honored to be part of the NIOSH TWH Affiliate Program and its focus on an integrated approach to protecting and promoting worker well-being.

This article is not about giving a template on how to build a great worksite wellness and safety program. It’s not about telling you everything you need to be doing to promote a healthy workforce. Instead, it’s about the why behind taking the next steps to improve worker health. Indeed when our descendants look back on our generation, we want them to see all the efforts we made to protect and promote the health and well-being of our workers.

Make your business a falls-free zone!

September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month

Submitted by STEADY U Ohio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Aging

Older adults probably play an important role in the success of your business, both as consumers and employees. That is, until they fall down.

One in three older adults will fall this year. Every five minutes, an older Ohioan is injured in a fall. When staff or customers fall in your business, it doesn’t just hurt them; it also hurts your reputation and your bottom line. A single fall can affect an older adult’s ability to remain independent and contribute to your continuing success.

Most falls in businesses can be prevented, and prevention can be achieved largely through staff and customer education and motivation. The STEADY U Ohio initiative is ready to help businesses create a safer environment for older adults and Ohioans of all ages who do business with them. Here are a few steps every business should take to prevent falls:

  • Create a falls prevention policy for your business and make sure your employees know and understand it.
  • Routinely identify issues with flooring, stairs, lighting and housekeeping that could cause accidents.
  • Post signs at your entrance and around the business advising customers to notify staff of slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Ensure that walkways are clean and clear of cords and obstructions. If you must use rugs or mats, ensure that they remain flat and that they do not move under foot.
  • Ensure that people can move freely around displays in the aisles without adjusting their gait. Avoid displays at the end of aisles that obscure a customer’s view of other customers and obstacles.
  • Have staff regularly monitor aisles for items that have fallen off shelves and are blocking.
  • Quickly clean up all spills (dry and wet). Provide supplies (i.e., towels, “wet floor” signs, trash cans) in convenient locations around your business.
  • Provide seating around your business, particularly in areas where customers may have to wait during busy times (e.g., near checkout lines, the service desk, the pharmacy, restrooms and exits).
  • When it’s snowy or icy, extend sales or offer shopping options for older customers (e.g., delivery or rain checks by phone) so they don’t have to risk falling to get a good deal.
  • Educate staff on proper lifting and carrying techniques and equipment, and instruct them to help customers carry large or bulky objects and bags.
  • If someone falls, document the incident and examine the cause so that you can prevent future accidents. Use our incident report template to get started.
  • Empower staff to offer assistance to customers who appear to be having trouble getting around.

Find tools to help your business prevent falls at our website, www.steadyu.ohio.gov. Resources include a sample falls prevention policy, a hazard checklist, an incident report template, tip sheets and a falls risk self-assessment. Educate yourself, your staff and your consumers, and make your business a falls-free zone!

Protecting Ohioans in agriculture

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Agriculture has always been a critical component of Ohio’s economy and one of the state’s major industries for employment.

According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is also the most hazardous industry in the country. Each day, almost 100 agriculture workers in the U.S. suffer a lost-time work injury, with 60 percent related to overexertion or slips, trips and falls.

With all of this in mind, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) decided once again to promote its products and services at the Farm Science Review – one of the premier agricultural trade and education shows in the nation. Hosted by The Ohio State University, this year’s event runs Sept. 19-21 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

For the second straight year, representatives from DSH will staff a booth to engage visitors about the free programs and services we offer to assist employers and workers in Ohio’s agribusiness.

For example, our industrial hygienists can help farms guard against environmental hazards, including chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, dust, mold, extreme noise and temperature extremes.

Our ergonomists can illustrate ways to cut down on hazards resulting from:

  • Manual materials handling;
  • Repetitive, hand-intensive work;
  • Poor workstation design;
  • Sedentary work.

The average cost of a lost-time claim for Ohio agriculture companies* is a little more than $52,000. Our safety consultants can help prevent common but costly injuries to protect the bottom line of Ohio’s agriculture businesses and their workers.

If you’re going to Farm Science Review this week, stop by and see us! We’re booth No. 32 in Building 513.     

Related links
Grain Storage and Handling Operations – The Deadliest Hazards
Safe at Work, Safe at Home  

*With 10 to 49 employees

Opioid infographic illustrates BWC’s success, pharmacy leadership

Document’s release coincides with director’s retirement

By Nick Trego, Clinical Operations Manager, Pharmacy Department

Click on infographic  for larger image.

BWC’s communications department recently completed an infographic summarizing our work over the last six years to rein in excessive opioid prescriptions and the dangers they pose to injured workers, namely abuse, addiction and death.

Using a mix of colors, illustrations and statistics, the infographic is a roadmap of the steps we’ve taken to reduce the number of injured workers dependent on opioids from 8,029 in 2011 to 4,101 in 2016, a near 50 percent drop.

It’s called “Saving Lives — BWC battles the opioid crisis.” A better title might be, “Saving Lives — a tribute to John Hanna.”

Hanna, our pharmacy director, retires Sept. 29 after eight years in the job. More than anyone, it is John who is responsible for the achievements highlighted in the infographic, as well as for other pharmacy program reforms we’ve implemented to protect injured workers.  Along the way, with the backing of BWC leadership, he also built a pharmacy department that is a model in the work comp industry today.

When John arrived at BWC in 2009, we had no real pharmacy department to speak of. It was essentially a mix of disparate services shared by various personnel in service offices throughout the state. We had no formulary, no clinical review committees. Controls and best practices were low. Costs and drug utilization were high. For a system that experienced more than 100,000 new injured workers a year, we had to do better.

What followed over the next several years were a series of improvements to reduce inappropriate prescribing of opioids and other dangerous drugs. We created a Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee of six physicians and six pharmacists to provide recommendations on all medication-related policy. We created the first work-comp-specific closed formulary in the nation. We stopped coverage of any new opioid formulation until it was reviewed by our P&T Committee. And in 2016, we implemented a rule that requires providers to use a set of best practice guidelines when prescribing opioids. If they don’t follow those guidelines, they risk losing their BWC certification.

To further demonstrate our commitment, we offer injured workers who meet specific criteria up to 18 months of paid recovery services if the treatment for their workplace injury leads to an opioid addiction.

In other enhancements, we developed an automated program that flags claimants with high-risk medication regimens. We implemented “electronic edits” that require all drugs in medical-only claims to have a prior authorization to continue to be covered past 60 days. The same goes for workers who’ve had no claim activity for 270 days. We became the first state agency to cover naloxone products, as well as the first state agency to add Abuse Deterrent Formulations of opioids as a choice for prescribers. And earlier this year, our board of directors approved a rule restricting first prescriptions for opioids to seven days or 30 doses.

Our work has garnered local and national media attention, and work comp programs across the country are calling us, wanting to mirror our success. Topping it off, we wound up saving our agency money. That’s right, I said “saving.” For every dollar we spent on reforms, 50 came back to us in savings. All told, our department spends nearly $49.6 million less on medications today than we did in 2011.

Not that any of this was cost-driven. John always told us, “If we implement best clinical practices, the savings will follow.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Kasich recognized John for his efforts, awarding him the Governor’s Award for Employee Excellence. The industry has recognized his efforts, too. Just last month, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions named John and our team winners of its 2017 Innovation Award.

None of this was easy, but John kept us focused on one guiding principal: “Do what’s best for the injured worker. That’s why we’re here.”

Thanks, John.

Click here for more on BWC’s efforts on the opioid front.