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.

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.

Make 2020 healthier and happier with Better You, Better Ohio!®

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

This safety council meeting was a life-saver – literally

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.

Don Croy (right) with his life-saving instructor Crystal Plumpe after his recovery.

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.

Lesson learned

“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.”

Related resources
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack (American Heart Association)
– More info about Ohio safety councils

We’ll see you at the NE Ohio Safety Expo!

By Dave Costantino, BWC Loss Prevention Supervisor

It’s hard to believe our NE Ohio Safety Expo is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year. It seems like just yesterday we were planning the first one!

With 40 sessions covering a wide variety of workplace safety topics and with an exciting lineup of exhibitors, this year’s event is bigger and better than ever.

We’ll cover everything from Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates and the opioid crisis to managing workers’ comp claims and workplace wellness programs.

This year’s event is Oct. 11 at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. Registration is now open. Because sessions fill up fast, I encourage you to register and pre-pay by Oct. 4.

You can view the complete list of educational sessions and access the registration form here. The cost is $30 and includes a light continental breakfast and box lunch.

Like last year, the expo will offer free and confidential biometric health screenings to eligible attendees as part of our Better You, Better Ohio!® program. Workers who work for small employers (150 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries* are eligible to participate in the program. You can check if you’re eligible to participate here.

I’m proud to lead the dedicated team that puts on the expo, an event that helps make Ohio workers and workplaces safer and healthier.

I hope to see you there!

*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

Ten ways to take action for National Preparedness Month

Whether natural or man-made, disaster can strike at any time. Which is why it’s so important to be prepared.

Next week marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month, so it’s a great time to check on your planning – at home and in the workplace. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this year’s theme is Prepared, Not Scared. Weekly themes cover everything from saving early for disaster costs to teaching children to be prepared.

From fires and floods to devastating tornadoes like those that touched down in Ohio earlier this year, there are simple steps you can take to be ready when disaster strikes. Below are some tips to help you and your workplace be more prepared and resilient.

  1. Sign up for local alerts and warnings, download apps, and check access for wireless emergency alerts.
  2. Create and practice emergency communication and action plans.
  3. Participate in a preparedness training or class.
  4. Learn lifesaving skills, such as CPR and first aid.
  5. Assemble or update emergency supplies, including flashlights, batteries, food, water, and medicine.
  6. Collect and safeguard critical documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.
  7. Document property and check your insurance policies for relevant hazards, such as flood, fire, and tornadoes.
  8. Consider the costs associated with disasters and save for emergencies.
  9. Make property improvements to reduce potential injury and property damage.
  10. Plan with neighbors to help each other and share resources.

Studies show that when employers urge workers to prepare for disasters, employees are 75% more likely to take preparedness actions.

Don’t wait until a disaster or emergency strikes. Take action now to protect yourself, your family and your workplace and be prepared for anything.

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.

Looking out for aging workers

May is Older Americans Month

By Stephanie McCloud, Administrator/CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

Americans are living longer, and they’re working longer too. Today, one in every five American workers is over 65, and in 2020, one in four American workers will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), we have 71 workers over the age of 65; 18 are over the age of 70. We truly appreciate our older workers and the years of service to our agency and the people of Ohio.

We recognize the value they bring to our agency, and the contributions of mature workers in general to the work force. They bring skills and knowledge to the workplace honed by decades of service and experience. They are dependable and productive. They have a strong work ethic. They mentor our younger workers.

At BWC, our core mission is to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses. Workplace safety is a critical component of that mission, especially when it comes to our more seasoned workers. They are more susceptible to injury because of age-related challenges – decreases in mobility and sensory functions, reduced strength and balance, and longer reaction times.

When a 25-year-old worker falls on the job, for instance, she might bruise a knee. For a 70-year-old worker, it’s potentially a broken hip and a long recovery.

Older workers helped build our great state, and we want to keep them active, healthy and engaged in their work. We’re a charter partner in the STEADY U Ohio initiative to curb the epidemic of slips, trips and falls among older Ohioans. (One in three older adults will fall this year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.) These are the leading causes of worker injury, and they most often strike workers 45 and older (like me!).

These incidents are costly. The total estimated cost of falls among Ohioans aged 65 and older (medical costs, work loss) is nearly $2 billion annually in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Most are preventable. At Steady U, workers and employers can find tips, tools and resources designed to reduce these incidents.

We urge all Ohioans to join us in creating a culture of safety across this state. Safe workplaces mean fewer, if any, injuries on the job, as well as steady production and lower costs for employers. And they mean more workers can go home healthy each day after their shift.

We are here to help. We have experts, grant dollars and other resources to make Ohio a safer place. To learn more, contact us at 1-800-644-6292 or visit our Division of Safety & Hygiene web page.

BWC’s Medical & Health Symposium begins today

Attendance increases more than 350% in four years

By John Annarino, Chief Medical and Health Officer

Our 2019 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium with its theme, Comprehensive Care for Injured Workers, begins today and runs through late Saturday afternoon.

We’re pleased that more than 800 health care practitioners, staff and legal professionals statewide will be attending our two-day event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

We’ve been planning our multi-disciplinary event for about a year. We can’t wait to connect with our attendees and exhibitors! This year’s symposium offers continuing-education opportunities with credits, taught by well-respected experts on leading health and medical issues that affect us all – at work and at home.

Our 2019 symposium brings medical and health specialists together with legal professionals to learn how we can better solve far-reaching issues such as managing pain and opioids, chemical dependency and how to recognize traumatic brain injury symptoms before it’s too late. Improving collaboration and trust with our health-care community is another vital issue, as is chiropractic medicine’s role in workers’ comp and occupational medicine.

How we got started

The journey to today’s successful symposium began four years ago. I challenged our Medical and Health division’s leadership to plan an event for health care providers focusing on pain. My vision for this educational event came after a quarterly pharmacy meeting and an in-depth discussion on pain medication. Most of the original planning team members worked on our 2019 Medical & Health Symposium.

Our goal for the symposium – then and now – is to address health care issues facing Ohio’s injured workers. For example, we know the overuse of opioid medication affects Ohio’s workers and their families. To learn more, listen to Chris Hart, an Ohio pharmacist, tell his story of chemical dependency and recovery on Friday followed by a question-and-answer session on Saturday.

In addition, Saturday’s provider clinical education sessions discuss medical marijuana with Mark Pew, who is better known as the Rx Professor; Reggie Fields of the Ohio State Medical Association and Robert Stutman, one of America’s highest-profile Drug Enforcement Agency special agents. Former judge Jodi Debbrecht-Switalski reviews the paradigm of liabilities for the medical profession with the drug epidemic.

How far we’ve come

Debi Kroninger, our chief of medical operations, leads the symposium’s planning team. I’ve learned our first symposium in 2015 had 177 providers registered, with continuing education opportunities for a limited number of professions.

Today, we offer continuing education for attorneys, chiropractors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, rehabilitation counselors (CCM, CDMS and CRC*), physicians and psychologists. Experts nationwide are learning about our innovative approaches and programs in caring for Ohio’s workers. For example, we already have eight speakers who are asking to present at next year’s event.

For increased learning opportunities, the symposium offers two educational tracks – the provider staff forum (Friday) and provider clinical education (Friday and Saturday). We feature the session Becoming a World-Class Carrier – BWC Medical Initiatives that will Take Us There in both tracks. Freddie Johnson, chief of medical services and compliance, along with Dr. Terry Welsh, chief medical officer, and Debi lead the session.

In addition, take time to network with the symposium’s exhibitors that include health care companies, state agencies, boards, associations and others.

How to contact us

Registration is free. If you have questions, call the provider contact center at 1-800-644-6292, option 0-3-0, or email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us.

Together, join us in our journey of providing innovative and quality health care for Ohio’s injured workers, their families and communities. We look forward to seeing you today and/or Saturday at our 2019 Medical & Health Symposium!

*Certified case manager, certified disability management specialist, certified rehabilitation counselor

Better health, straight from the tap

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

There are few things in life more important to us than O2 and H2O. Air and water. We can’t survive without them.

Let’s focus on water. Its benefits are innumerable, as long as it’s clean and safe. That’s the goal of Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio water quality initiative. The initiative is part of the governor’s budget and seeks to invest in long-term solutions to ensure safe and clean water across Ohio.

Clean, safe water is such an important part of our overall health that it’s one of the areas we encourage Ohioans to focus on when they join Better You, Better Ohio!™, our health and wellness program for Ohio’s workforce.

The free program offers health and wellness coaching and other resources for employees of businesses that have 150 or fewer workers. Healthy employees are less prone to injury. And, when they are injured, they’re usually able to recover more quickly.

You can learn more about the program and register here. If you’re eligible, you’ll have access to:

  • Free health assessment and biometric screening.
  • Disease management and health coaching.
  • Monetary incentives for participating and more!

ActiveHealth Management – our partner in offering the Better You, Better Ohio! program – also has many free health and wellness resources available to anyone. This includes items like a monthly newsletter and webinars covering a variety of health and wellness topics, including the importance of H2O.

The fact sheet below covers the benefits of H2O, how much you need and tips for drinking enough every day.

Better health – it starts straight from the tap.