A look back at our most-popular posts of 2020

By Danielle Alley, Social Media Coordinator

While we all might be ready to close the book on 2020, we think some pages are worth reading again, or perhaps for the first time if you missed them earlier.

Our most popular blog posts from the past 12 months focused primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it upended our lives and routines, personally and professionally. We heard from a BWC nurse fighting COVID-19 on the front lines in her weekend hospital job. We heard from employers praising our efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on their employees and bottom line. We heard from others sharing deeply personal stories about tragedy and triumph in their lives.

In short, these stories are about people. That’s what BWC is about, too. Thank you for following us in this space.

  1. Amy Phillips’ family tragedy saved many lives.
  2. Customers show us the love during COVID-19.
  3. My family’s trauma changed my world.
  4. BWC nurse battles COVID-19 on front lines.
  5. In challenging times, BWC delivers.

As always, if you have ideas for blog topics, please let us know. Leave a comment or connect with us on social media and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

Have a happy and SAFE new year!

 

My family’s trauma changed my world

Thankfully, so did Kids’ Chance of Ohio

By Malerie Mysza

I remember the last truly happy moments I spent with my father. I was 4, and we sat watching cartoons and laughing in the living room of our home in Cleveland. Soon after, he suffered brain injuries and blindness from an on-the-job accident. My father as I knew him no longer existed.

Brian Mysza suffered brain injuries and blindness from an on-the-job accident. His son, Sam, walks beside him.

At age 5, I visited him in his new nursing home on Easter. I asked him to come hunt for eggs with me, but when I offered him my arm to come along, he grabbed and twisted it painfully. I wasn’t allowed near him after that.

Experiencing a trauma like that as a child forever changed me. It made me want to do something to help him and others who were living with similar brain injuries. But when you lose more than half your family income and your mom stops working in order to care for her five children, how do you finance such an ambitious goal?

Searching for scholarships, I discovered Kids’ Chance of Ohio. The nonprofit organization offers scholarships to children of workers who have been permanently disabled or fatally injured on the job. Kids’ Chance awarded me $18,000 over five years. Combined with local scholarships and other public financial assistance, it covered the costs of my undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. When I say Kids’ Chance made my educational dreams possible, it’s no exaggeration.

Brian Mysza, before the accident, with daughter Ashley.

This spring I graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. I now hope to complete my master’s in Occupational Therapy at UC, with an anticipated graduation date of 2022.

The joy I experienced on my graduation day was surreal. Nine-year-old me, who asked my mom if she could get my dad exercise bands so he wouldn’t just sit in a chair and rock back and forth all day, was ecstatic. My 10-year-old self, who tried to figure out how to make treadmills brain-injury friendly during a fourth-grade invention discussion, was so proud.

The Myszas celebrate Christmas at Longhorn Steakhouse in 2018. From left, Malerie’s father Brian and mother Laura, sister Alanna, Malerie, sisters Ashley and Adriana, and brother Sam. Brian currently resides in a brain injury rehab facility in Pittsburgh.

And the adult me finds herself one step closer to fulfilling her lifelong goal – opening a rehabilitation facility that specializes in brain injuries, where  practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” instead of “What’s the matter with you?”

My college experience was wonderful inspiration and training for my future.

  • I interned for the Cincinnati nonprofit InReturn, leading a life skills class for brain injury survivors.
  • I volunteered for the rehabilitation department in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
  • I started a nonprofit organization, GIVE at UC, to promote sustainability and encourage volunteerism abroad.
  • And I took two life-changing mission trips to Nicaragua and Thailand, where I worked with children, built schools, was involved with turtle conservation and worked in an elephant hospital.

Malerie Mysza teaches English to children in Chiang Dao, Thailand, during a mission trip from May to June 2019.

Without Kids’ Chance, none of this would have been possible. I always say the most important thing is time and how you make the most of it. Kids’ Chance of Ohio’s altruism and generosity has – so far – given me the most life-affirming time of all.

I am beyond happy. And somewhere deep inside, I hope my father is too.

If you would like to support Kids’ Chance of Ohio or know someone who can benefit from its scholarships, please visit https://kidschanceohio.org.

 

 

BWC to cover drug disposal bags for opioid prescriptions

By Miranda Williams, PharmD, RPh, Director of BWC’s Pharmacy Program

In our latest step to mitigate the opioid epidemic on Ohio’s workforce, we will provide injured workers with drug disposal bags that destroy leftover opioids.

Governor Mike DeWine, BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud and RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson announced this new statewide effort Thursday, Oct. 17, in Columbus at a local pharmacy.

You may view the announcement on BWC’s Facebook page. In addition, many media outlets attended the event. Here are some of the stories: Click here for WSYX-TV, ABC 6, in Columbus and here for the Statehouse News Bureau story.

Starting Nov. 1, retail pharmacies will automatically issue the disposal bags to Ohio injured workers receiving an opioid prescription for the first time within the last 12 months.

The bags destroy opioid pills, liquids, and patches in a chemical process rendering them useless.

Unused medications
“Newly injured workers don’t always need every opioid pill in their prescription, and this new effort will simplify the process for safely disposing of these dangerous drugs,” said Governor DeWine, who praised BWC for the initiative. “By giving these drug disposal bags to injured workers at the time they fill a prescription, we can not only educate them about the dangers of opioid addiction, but also reduce the risk that unused pills will end up where they shouldn’t – in the hands of children, for example.”

We’re covering the cost of every disposal bag, so there is no cost to the pharmacy, the injured worker, and the employer. “The bag is extremely simple to use and it’s completely biodegradable,” noted Administrator McCloud.

The bags destroy the drugs in a simple process, as Administrator McCloud and Governor DeWine demonstrated during the news conference:

  1. Toss any unused medication into the bag.
  2. Fill it with warm water and wait 30 seconds.
  3. Seal it and shake it. Throw the bag out.

“Along with the Governor’s RecoveryOhio initiative, we want to safeguard our community’s medicine cabinets from becoming gateways to youth and adult drug experimentation,” said Administrator McCloud.

Gov. DeWine and Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud demonstrate how to use the drug disposal bag.

Here’s a sobering statistic from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for non-medical purposes.

The disposal bags are one more tool in BWC’s comprehensive program to mitigate the opioid epidemic’s impact on Ohio’s workforce. Earlier this year, we dropped Oxycontin from our formulary and replaced it with opioids that have stronger abuse-deterrent technology.

We estimate up to 175 injured workers a month will be eligible for a drug disposal bag. That’s not a huge number — we covered 164,761 opioid prescriptions in calendar year 2018 — but if it saves one life, it’s worth doing. As Governor DeWine has often said, the opioid and substance-use epidemic is a complicated public health issue. There is no easy solution, and it requires all of us, from state leaders to you and our next-door neighbors, to fight this battle.

In addition, we are a leader in our industry. Other state agencies and workers’ comp systems across America look to us for guidance on a host of issues, from building strong pharmacy and safety programs to fighting fraud. Let’s hope they follow our lead on this effort, too.

For more information about drug disposal bags, email or call BWC’s Pharmacy Department at 877-543-6446,  8 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., EST, Monday – Friday.

BWC, ODJFS: Online training to help injured workers

OhioMeansJobs webinars available for continuing education credit

By Tina Elliott, Director, BWC Return to Work Services

To help Ohio’s injured workers return to work, we’re continuing our partnership with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) through its OhioMeansJobs.com website.

A recording of our joint training series with ODJFS is now available online.

These webinars were designed to help providers, injured workers, BWC staff and managed care organizations better understand the resources available to help injured workers return to work. We also want people to know the OhioMeansJobs website can be used as a one-stop hub for return-to-work services.

To view the webinars, go to BWC Learning Management System and select Login or Need an Account. Once you log in, search for the following:

  • Adding Value for Job Seekers with LMI and OhioMeansJobs.com: Locating Information
  • Adding Value for Job Seekers with LMI and OhioMeansJobs.com: Career Direction and ExplorationContinuing Education

Each one-hour session offers one continuing education unit (CEU) for certified rehabilitation counselors, certified case managers and certified disability management specialists. This CEU credit is only valid through Aug. 19.

Session survey

If you already attended the live sessions, you’re welcome to review the videos and access the handouts as a refresher. However, you won’t earn new CEUs for retaking the same sessions. You must complete the session survey to obtain a certificate and credit for the CEUs.

Once you complete the course and the survey, your CEU information will be in your BWC learning center transcript. Within a few days, your certificate will also be available online.

If you have questions, please email us. Thank you for learning more about the tools and resources available on OhioMeansJobs.com. Together, we’re helping Ohio’s injured workers return to work and return to life.

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.

Motivation equals success

By Jim Landon, RN, and Mukesh Kumar Singh, CFE, LLM, MBA, BWC Compliance & Performance Management

In any workers’ compensation claim, motivation is always a key factor in not only the rehabilitation of the injured worker but for a successful return to work.

While this holds true in any industrial injury claim, it’s particularly true for catastrophic injuries that result in an amputation. When an injured worker suffers an amputation injury, not only are they faced with physical hurdles to overcome but also the challenge of regaining their self-esteem.

Obtainable goals, collaboration
Injured workers who suffer an amputation must learn to adapt both physically and mentally to return to a state of normalcy post-injury. Without motivation and obtainable goals, the injured worker will quite often ultimately fail. However, for an injured worker to be motivated it is crucial they have a strong support system. This system should consist of a positive collaboration between family members, the employer, providers, as well as BWC and the managed care organization (MCO) for ultimate success.

A key to this success is fitting the injured worker with the correct prosthesis as soon as he or she is medically stable to do so. The philosophy of this is well proven. There is only a limited window of opportunity in sustaining the motivation factor for the injured worker before frustration and poor self-esteem set in. If this does not occur, a successful return-to-work and the return to a normal life are unlikely.

The process of fitting the injured worker with the correct prosthesis follows a very simple logic. In choosing the proper device it need not be high tech or low tech, but the right tech.  The choice should be fitting a device that provides optimal function and gives the injured worker the best chance of not only returning to gainful employment but to a pre-injury quality of life.

Support + motivation = success
We must remember that behind every claim number is a person that is more than likely going through the worst period of their life, and they need collaborative support. Support provides motivation.  Motivation equals success.

We saw this recently when we participated with Ryan Nagy, an injured Middleburg Heights police officer, in the Wounded Heroes’ Trek of Hope. Together, we trekked the Annapurna circuit in Nepal.

Ryan’s successful return to work and a normal life following his above-the-knee amputation is a testament to teamwork along with BWC and finding ability in disability with a courageous attitude. His motivation, goal setting, collaboration and a strong support system at home and at work made the difference. Learn more about Ryan’s story by viewing this video.

Injured workers can get questions answered online or by phone

By Bill Teeven, Contact Center Director

contact centerWhen you’re injured on the job, the last thing you want to do is to get bogged down in bureaucracy trying to figure out your workers’ comp claim. Ohio has a lot of laws governing workers’ comp, and as the head of BWC’s Customer Contact Center, I understand they can sometimes be confusing.

Accurate and timely information are key to navigating the system. Injured workers can get information about their claim using the phone or by going online.

We look forward to helping you today. Call us at 800-644-6292 and select self-service to learn many things about your claim. Just listen to the prompts and you can hear about compensation award information; what office is handling your claim; the status of your claim; the allowed conditions on your claim and the contact information for your managed care organization (MCO).

If you have access to the internet you can see all sorts of information about your claim by simply creating an e-account.

To create an e-account go to www.bwc.ohio.gov, click on the Create e-account link in the e-account logon box and follow the instructions.

Once you have an e-account you can go to the WORKERS tab which you’ll find along the top of the homepage, and access all sorts of information about your claim.

Place your cursor over the WORKERS tab, and you’ll see a drop-down list of functions available to you including changing your address, checking your claim or benefit status, viewing claim documents and getting contact information for your Claims Service Specialist.

If you click on the WORKERS tab and look down the blue column on the left, you’ll see a list of detailed items you can access.  They include diagnosis information, a history of benefit payments, and correspondence regarding the claim, along with general information like a statement of Injured Workers’ Rights and a guided tour through the claims process.

If you have questions that can’t be answered online or using our automated phone service, you can speak with a customer service representative by calling our Contact Center at 800-644-6292, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Ever have a cramp or ache after work and wonder, “what did I do?”

Ergonomics of your workspace may be the answer to the question.
By Mike Lampl, BWC Ergonomics Technical Advisor

What is Ergonomics?
A practical definition for ergonomics is the science of matching workers and workplaces in a manner that improves worker productivity while lowering the risk of injury and discomfort.  More scientifically, ergonomics is the study of human abilities and limitations and the application of this information to the design of the man-made environment.  Think of something you have done to make your own job easier, more comfortable, and more productive.  That is ergonomics.

Ergonomics in the workplace is mostly directed at musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).  In addition to injury reduction, ergonomics often positively impacts productivity, quality, employee turnover, and morale.

How can ergonomics be incorporated into the workplace?
O Reduce forceful exertions.
O Reduce manual loading by using convey­ors, hoists and other mechanical means.
Ergo blog 1O Use carts, hand-trucks or powered equipment when moving materials.
O Minimize the weight of tools.
O Use vices and clamps to hold materials.
O Learn from each other how to best use tools safely and efficiently.


Ergo blog 2

Ergo blog 6
O Maintain neutral postures as much as possible.
– Maintain the s-curve in your back. This can be achieved by tilting containers and
using seats with good lumbar support.
O Maintain a straight neck. Adjust working heights or tilt the equipment.
O Reduce the mechanical pressure on your soft tissues.
– Add padding to tools.
– Use cushioned chairs.
– Use floor mats.
O Maintain straight wrists. Use tools with proper thickness, length and shape.
O Work at approximately elbow height — slightly below for heavier work and slightly
above for precision work.
O When lifting, lift between your knee and shoulder height and carry at about your
waist height.
O Minimize reaching. Locate frequently used items as close to you as possible.

With MSDs caused by overexertion and/or repetitive motion accounting for roughly one out of three occupational injuries , ergonomics continues to be an important consideration in the workplace.

Employers in Ohio and throughout the nation have added ergonomic improvements such as lift tables, better tools, lifting devices, workstations with adjustability, etc.  Many have seen great success in injury reduction and avoidance as well as productivity improvements.

What has been your greatest success in regards to ergonomic improvements? Share it in our comment section so maybe others in our safety community can learn from it as well.

Be safe Ohio!

Welcome to the new BWC blog!

Why do we call the blog Prevention & Care? Because everything we do at BWC ties to two simple goals: the prevention of workplace injuries and care of workers who are injured on the job.

With this blog, we plan to keep you informed with the most recent updates from BWC, as well as offer helpful information and tips on a range of issues. So whether you’re an Ohio employer, worker, medical provider, other stakeholder, or just an interested citizen, we hope you’ll find our blog informative and useful.

This blog features sections covering a number of topics of interest to our customers and partners. We kick off today with a post covering one of the most important aspects of workers’ compensation – prevention – because a focus on safe workplaces keeps Ohio workers healthy and productive.

Abe Al-TarawnehAbeAltarawneh leads BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene and he appropriately kicks off our safety category with a post reflecting on the importance of making safety a priority in every workplace.

The Case for Safety
Many of us wake up in the morning and head out to work without thinking about it. While we all tend to resist change, we humans are the most adapting species. We are very habitual and most of our attitudes, behaviors, and/or in/actions are dictated by what is acceptable to the collection of the rest of us. This explains how our parents, grandparents and their grandparents took huge risks and performed work under extreme conditions while exposed to major hazards. In my office, I have pictures of kids, probably 12 to 15 years old, who worked in mines at the turn of the past century. Abe's picture 2Most of them with dirty faces and tired eyes, yet they had beaming smiles. Knowing what I know about the working conditions in mines, I wonder how life turned out for these kids as they became older. I wonder if any of them suffered from black lung disease, back; knee and/or shoulder injuries. How did they handle the pain of sprains and strains without Tylenol? And, when my mind wanders to the extreme, had any of them died by asphyxiation in a confined space or in a tunnel collapse? Sometimes, I wish I could talk to them as I am sure that each one of them has stories that surpass the best of fiction.

I am so glad that we do not live in the world these kids lived in and I can only hope that our kids and their kids will live in a much better world than the one we live in today. A world where nobody would lose a limb or a finger, be overrun by a forklift, be killed in a car accident, lift heavy loads all day long or repeat the same movement with the same body parts throughout a shift.

Our role in safety goes much beyond pointing out hazards and telling people how to fix them. If we confine ourselves to that role, which is an important day to day role, then our work ends at the end of the work day. Yet, it shouldn’t, because our role in safety is creating a better world for those who we love and care about for generations to come. Our achievement is measured by how we positively affect people’s expectations of a safer and better world for all of us. This is what safety is about, it is about improving the standards of living for us and then more by paying it forward to next generations.

There will be a world for future generations in which occupational fatalities and injuries, car accidents, traffic fatalities will be a thing of the past. And, we will be smiling somewhere…

Thank you, Abe, for sharing your insights into safety.

We’ll post weekly updates we hope will help inspire Ohio employers and workers to elevate their awareness of and attention to safety in workplaces across Ohio. So bookmark or favorite this site, and come back every Tuesday for the latest safety blog post.