BWC safety grants protect worker health, save employers time, money

NIOSH-BWC study published in industry journal

By Steve Naber, Ph.D., BWC Business Intelligence and Analytics Manager

For more than 10 years, our Division of Safety & Hygiene has enjoyed the benefits of being in a cooperative research program with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Through the program, we share claims with personal information removed and employer data with NIOSH and assist its researchers in various studies that use our data. Working together, we recently completed a study to evaluate the effectiveness of construction equipment Ohio employers purchased using our Safety Intervention Grant program from 2003 to 2016.

The findings

Though the study did not conduct a complete cost-benefit analysis, the data suggest our safety grants help improve worker safety and may also lead to cost savings for Ohio construction industry employers. In terms of cost savings, the study found:

  • An average productivity savings of $24,462 per grant.
  • The average savings due to less rework was $2,931 per grant.
  • The average savings due to reduced absenteeism was $859 per grant.

It also found equipment for cable pulling in electrical trades to be among the most effective. 

Other equipment scoring highly included concrete sawing equipment, skid steering attachments for concrete breaking, and boom lifts. The study’s results appear in the April edition of the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. You can read the article here.

The objective

The objective of the study was to apply a systematic method to identify the types of construction equipment that were more effective in improving the safety and health of workers. The study’s authors focused on the construction industry because “it is a high-risk industry, and construction employers need more information about effective solutions (interventions) to address safety and health.”

The methodology

The researchers evaluated 153 construction industry safety grants, totaling $6.5 million in equipment costs. The study placed the grants into 24 groups based on the function of the equipment purchased. The analysis emphasized equipment that was purchased in multiple grants and that had high scores for both risk reduction for work-related musculoskeletal disorders and quality of information contained in the safety grant reports.

We provided the data for the study, which included pre-grant and post-grant claims information and employer survey results regarding risk-factor abatement, equipment effectiveness, employee acceptance, and the effects on productivity. The research team developed an evaluation system that assigned scores to each grant based on the quality of the information employers provided addressing these factors. The team then tallied the component scores in these categories to get a total score for each grant that reflected the quality of the information and the equipment effectiveness. BWC researchers also contributed by reviewing and assisting in the development of the scoring system and in preparing the study’s manuscript.

Conclusion

This study supports our belief that employers will see long-term cost savings when they invest in workplace safety. More importantly, investing in safety protects the health and well-being of workers throughout our state. That’s why we’ve been offering these grants to Ohio employers for more than 15 years.  

NIOSH researchers contributing to the study and paper include Brian Lowe, James Albers, Marie Hayden, and Steve Wurzelbacher; BWC’s contributors are Mike Lampl and Steve Naber.

BWC honors five Ohio employers for workplace safety innovations

By Jeff Hutchins, Manager, BWC Quality Assurance & Technical Safety Support

We recently awarded cash prizes to five Ohio employers as part of our annual Safety Innovation Awards. We typically announce the winners at our annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, which did not take place as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.    

The awards recognize a handful of Ohio employers for developing innovative solutions to safety concerns in their workplaces. Because in-person judging did not happen at safety congress, we made the decision to award the five finalists $3,500 each.

More recently, we decided to place the awards on hiatus for 2021. We will use this time to review the program and prepare to return for 2022. 

“The COVID-19 emergency has forced us to adapt the way we do many things, including our Safety Innovation Awards,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Even though we couldn’t provide these finalists the usual ceremony at safety congress, we applaud them for their innovative spirit and commitment to protecting their workers.”

This week, we’ve been posting videos on social media about this year’s award winners. If you missed them, you can learn about all the award winners below.

Diversified Fall Protection (Westlake) – Portable Truss Anchor

Diversified Fall Protection engineers, manufacturers, and distributes fall-protection equipment.

In an industrial setting, working at a height above machinery poses a fall hazard. Unstable ladders and limited styles of fall protection when working in such an environment are ineffective. Contributing to this hazard is the practice of tying off to structures that are not capable of supporting the load if a fall does take place.

This innovation is a portable personal fall protection anchor that installs quickly overhead into the opening of the bottom chord of a roof application. The Portable Truss Anchor uses the overhead truss system in a building to create an Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant anchorage point for working in high places. Unlike permanently attached fall protection anchor systems that require a self-retracting lanyard at each location, the Portable Truss Anchor is an alternative solution that installs in minutes – where and when workers need it.

More than 1,000 workers currently use the Portable Truss Anchor with no reported fall-related injures associated with its use.

Watch a video about Diversified Fall Protection’s Portable Truss Anchor on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Fort Amanda Specialties (Lima) – Custom Cleaning-in-Place Safety Solution

Fort Amanda Specialties LLC is a joint venture of Nouryon and BASF Corporation. It is a chemical producer of high-quality chelates.

The production process uses transport screws to move solid product in a multi-product processing unit. Cleaning out these screws during product changes created safety exposures as workers had to remove the lids to wash the screws. This exposed workers to unguarded moving machinery, high-pressure water spray, and slip hazards from overspray on walking-working surfaces.

The company designed custom-made wash lids with Plexiglass windows for inspection as well as permanently mounted spray nozzles inside.  

The solution eliminates contact with moving equipment and exposure to high-pressure water. The enclosure contains wash water, reducing water use and eliminating slip hazards.

Watch a video about Fort Amanda Specialties’ Custom Cleaning-in-Place Solution on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Mt. Vernon City Schools (Knox County) – Rapid Barricade

Mt. Vernon City Schools is a school district serving 3,800 students at six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and a digital academy. 

If a school or other public building experiences a threat, most will activate a lock-down procedure. Door locking devices must be easy to deploy and remove and must withstand extreme force. Some locking devices do not comply with building/fire codes, require facility modifications to install or tools to deploy, and some require workers to verify deployment from a public area (i.e. the hallway), which exposes them to the threat.

The need was for a temporary door-locking device that meets all the fire code and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and was always available, not stored somewhere.

School maintenance personnel worked with a local machine shop to create the now-patented Rapid Barricade. Workers can install the Rapid Barricade on any ADA-compliant door. It deploys in seconds and can withstand 1,200 pounds of force.

Watch a video about Mount Vernon City Schools’ Rapid Barricade on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

TFO Tech Co., LTD (Jeffersonville) – Furnace Pulley Unloader

TFO Tech Co. LTD produces automotive wheel hubs, crankshafts, CVT pulleys, and other parts.

Workers had to manually rake 10- to 13-pound parts approximately 2.5 feet into a bin as the parts exited the heat treat furnace. The parts coming from the furnace are near 300 degrees Celsius, meaning excessive heat was a hazard. The raking motion also exposed workers to ergonomic hazards – shoulder, elbow, back, and chest were the main areas of the body affected.

The innovation drops down and encloses the parts in a steel frame. The frame slides the product off the side of the conveyor and into the basket. Rather than manually raking the parts, workers complete the process with the push of a button. This removes the physical (ergonomic) aspect of the process and reduces the employees’ heat exposure because the operator’s panel is about 5 feet farther from the hot parts than the original operating position.

Watch a video about TFO Tech Co., LTD.’s Furnace Pulley Unloader on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America (Hamilton) – Near Miss Reporting App

thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America manufactures shock absorbers for high-performance automobiles, motorsports, and off-road vehicles.

In a manufacturing facility that works around the clock with nearly 700 employees, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions were occurring. Unfortunately, they were often not reported, nor addressed. Before implementation, workers reported an average of four near misses per month, most coming from a few supervisors. Reporting was a cumbersome process, requiring the worker to download a four-page document from the intranet before completing it, printing it, and having it signed by multiple people.

This innovation changed the reporting process from a tedious paper document to a short, quick, and easy electronic submission via app. The company developed it using web-based software called Smartsheet. Now, any worker can submit the online form in the app, which inputs the information into a database similar to an Excel spreadsheet.

Near miss reports have increased from approximately 48 per year to more than 500 per year. The company’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable rate dropped from 3.03 to .91, and its lost-time accident rate dropped from 3.61 to 0.

Watch a video about thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America’s Near Miss Reporting App on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Beyond the costs of an injury

By Mark Leung, BWC Technical Medical Specialist,
Recently promoted from the BWC Safety & Hygiene Fellowship program

Occupational health and safety has been a public health focus for many years. Emphasizing worker protection and well-being advances the overall goal of reducing negative health outcomes in the future. The need to address health disparities within the working population is paramount to public health practitioners. In doing so, there have been many discussions about the actual costs of an injury or illness. However, is there a true quantifiable cost an occupational injury or illness creates?

We typically link occupational injuries and illnesses with their financial burden in the form of direct and indirect costs. Direct costs of an injury or illness relates to the medical treatment and rehabilitation of the worker, workers’ compensation costs and legal expenses. Indirect costs may include: lost productivity, training and compensating replacement workers, repairing damaged property, low employee morale, poor community relations, reputation, penalties, etc. The indirect costs of injuries and illnesses vary widely, and may be up to 20 times higher than direct costs.1

These costs are usually in the economic frame of reference for the employer. However, we must not lose sight of the social costs of an occupational injury or illness on the individual, community and societal level. Depending on the severity of the injury or illness, the worker’s quality of life suffers on the individual level. Quality of life goes beyond physical limitations, such as psychological well-being, social interactions and other non-work activities. In some cases, the diminished quality of life is a permanent reality as it influences the worker’s health behaviors and health trajectory for the rest of their lives.

Additionally, the lasting effect of the injury or illness can cause a ripple in an individual’s network. The quality of life for family members and friends may be diminished if they are involved in social interactions and the caregiving process with the affected worker. Even as part of their profession, caregivers and medical professionals carry a burden as a part of the treatment and rehabilitation portion of the process. Every social factor the worker experiences influences the community level in some shape or form. The summation of social costs may influence societal systems, including:

  • Stressing social safety nets;
  • Changing retirement trends;
  • Shaping laws and regulations;
  • Use of medical resources;
  • Changing population health outcomes.

The societal level offers us a call for action in the form of prevention, rather than a reactive approach.

The burden of an occupational injury or illness does not just fall on a worker and the employer. It is truly a social issue that has an impact on multiple layers of society. While it may be difficult to quantify a complete cost of an occupational injury or illness, our efforts to proactively address workplace risks and safeguard worker well-being as public health practitioners remain. Thus, it is ever so important to embrace occupational health and safety beyond the workplace.

1 Source: ASSE

BWC firefighter grants – protecting those who protect us

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

For most of us, doing laundry is a dreaded chore we push to the bottom of our to-do list. For fire departments, it’s critical to keeping firefighters safe and healthy.

Last month, BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison and Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Bill Spurgeon, visited the Genoa Township Fire Department in Westerville to watch its staff do laundry (sort of). The two were actually there to see the department washer extractor in action.

The washer extractor is a specialized washing machine that removes carcinogens and toxins from firefighters’ turnout gear after fighting a blaze. The department purchased the washer extractor with help from BWC’s Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant (FEEEG) Program. It used $10,075 in grant funds from BWC to replace an aging extractor that was no longer getting the job done.

“Cancer is a leading threat to firefighter health and we take that threat seriously,” says Genoa Township Fire Chief Gary Honeycutt. “We wanted to make sure we are getting this gear as clean as possible.”

While at the station, Administrator Morrison announced BWC would more than double the funding for the grant program. With good reason. As of February 28, the FEEEG Program had awarded 199 grants totaling $2 million with nearly 250 additional grants pending. The program will continue for a second year beginning July 1 with a funding level of $2 million.

The grant program covers more than just washer extractors. Other common purchases include safety gear (e.g., washable gloves, barrier hoods) and exhaust systems. In April, BWC announced 37 fire departments had received nearly $370,000 in grants to purchase equipment.

BWC developed the program because firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“We wanted to make an investment to make firefighters aware of the importance of taking care of themselves and taking care of their equipment,” says Administrator Morrison.

Other BWC grant programs

Safety Intervention Grant Program
This program provides a 3-to-1 matching grant (up to a maximum of $40,000) to help Ohio employers purchase equipment to substantially reduce or eliminate injuries and illnesses associated with a particular task or operation. It’s not too late to apply for this fiscal year.

Drug-Free Safety Program Grants
These grants assist employers in implementing a drug-free program in their workplace.

Employers Working with Persons with Developmental Disabilities Grant Program
This program assists Ohio employers with ensuring the safety of their staff when carrying out the services they provide to developmentally disabled children and adults. The program is available to eligible Ohio employers who wish to purchase training and/or equipment to substantially reduce or eliminate injuries or illnesses associated with working with developmentally disabled children and adults.

Workplace Wellness Grants
Employers wanting to improve the health and wellness of their workers can benefit from our Workplace Wellness Grant Program. It provides funding to assist employers in establishing training and programs to reduce health risk factors specific to their employees.

Are exoskeletons the future of workplace injury prevention?

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

We’re capping off OSC18 with an all-day session and demonstration of the latest in workplace wearable technology: exoskeletons.

Delia Treaster, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor, organized the session just as the the technology is beginning to gain momentum as tool for preventing workplace injuries.

“The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort,” said Treaster in a recent blog.

Many questions remain but exoskeletons seem to have great potential for injury prevention.

One thing we know for sure is the devices are drawing a big crowd and a lot of interest at OSC this year.

Check out these pictures from this morning’s presentations:

           

 

 

Exoskeletons gain momentum in preventing ergonomic injuries

By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

Exoskeletons are here! Formerly found in science fiction or action movies, exoskeletons have made the transition from fantasy to reality.

Exoskeletons are wearable devices that augment the physical capability of the worker. They have been developed for military operations and medical rehabilitation, but exoskeletons are increasingly found in industry. The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort.

Some exoskeletons are designed to provide postural support to the legs. Other exoskeletons provide assistance to the back or arms during lifting tasks. Yet another type of industrial exoskeletons may assist the whole body.

Despite their tantalizing promise of reduced fatigue and improved safety, there are many unanswered questions regarding the use of exoskeletons in industrial jobs.

  • What are the short- and long-term consequences of using an exoskeleton on muscle conditioning and coordination?
  • Does an exoskeleton affect a worker’s sense of balance or alter movement patterns?
  • What physical sizes can be accommodated by the exoskeleton?
  • What kind of training and how much training is needed for a worker to use an exoskeleton in performing his/her job?
  • Are exoskeletons accepted by workers – why or why not?
  • How effective are exoskeletons in reducing ergonomic injuries?

On March 9, 2018, a workshop at the 2018 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo will provide an overview of industrial exoskeletons. Exoskeleton manufacturers will demonstrate the features of their products and discuss their potential for improving safety and productivity.

Researchers will share results of their studies on the impact of exoskeletons on the human body. End users will share their experiences in using exoskeletons in real-world production jobs. Knowledge gleaned from this workshop will assist industry decision makers in determining whether exoskeletons would be beneficial to their operations and which exoskeletons would be most suitable.

Ohio Safety Congress & Expo attendees may also see various exoskeleton models and talk to sales representatives by visiting the exoskeleton booths in the Expo Marketplace (Hall B, Aisle 900) on March 7 and 8.

Admission to the workshop is free but seating is limited. Register in advance by calling 614-466-7695 or through online registration.

Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Gaming technology helping researchers study injuries at nursing facilities

BWC grants are funding exciting research into a variety occupational health and safety issues at Ohio colleges and universities.

Cleveland State University was one of the first recipients of the Ohio Occupational Safety and Health Research Program back in 2015. Since then, researchers have been studying how to reduce injuries in nursing homes.

Check out this story from News Channel 5 in Cleveland about how the university is using gaming technology in its research.

Customer relationship management – an essential element in occupational injury prevention

By Michael Rienerth, BWC Ergonomics Technical Advisor

One of my favorite sayings is, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That philosophy and approach are absolutely essential when it comes to delivering effective safety and health consulting. And BWC’s occupational safety and health consultants sincerely care – not only about helping employers prevent occupational injuries and illnesses but also about delivering high-quality, customer-focused service in a more efficient and economical way.

As safety and health professionals, our education and training focuses on the technical methods that are used to analyze hazards and prevent injuries and illnesses. As a result – we sometimes overlook the need to build relationships and develop trust with the people who are ultimately responsible for making those changes. Eventually, we learn that we first need to first to understand the unique history, needs and preferences of each customer before we can suggest the most appropriate injury and illness prevention services to address their situations. Developing that trust is truly one of the most challenging aspects of consulting – particularly when representing a government agency.

During my 24 years as a field consultant for BWC I was also often frustrated by the need to record my time and activities and prepare consultation reports using separate scheduling, reporting, tracking and document storage systems. This not only took countless hours away from serving customers, but also made it difficult to locate important customer information and communicate effectively with my peers.

I must admit that when the Division of Safety and Hygiene first started “shopping” for a better activity recording system, my primary focus was on risk management or loss prevention software packages that would allow consultants to list out the hazards they identified and provide recommendations for abating them. I also wanted a system that would allow  consultants to share the great consulting tools and methods that they have developed with their peers across the state. So when a colleague approached me with a variety of customer relationship management (CRM) systems that he wanted to explore, I did not really think they would meet our specific needs. However, once we began talking to various vendors and others in our line of business, it became clear that we could have a system that would not only enhance our technical capabilities but facilitate better customer relationships at the same time.

The system that we ultimately chose, Risk Control Inspection, fits our needs perfectly. It allows us to enter all information in one place at one time, manage our customer relationships more effectively, share our risk assessment tools more efficiently and generate and store correspondence more easily.  In short, it is allowing us to improve the overall quality and consistency of our services.

We all understand that in every type of business and government service, customers demand better, faster, more consistent customer service. We have also learned that providing great service to our external customers also requires managing and maintaining good relationships and communications within our own organization. Fortunately, our new customer relationship management system allows us to do both – and a lot more!

It is truly an exciting time for the Ohio BWC’s occupational safety and health consultants and employer service representatives. We look forward to putting this system to work to provide better service to Ohio employers because better service ultimately helps to keep Ohio workers safe and healthy on the job.

Welcome to the 2016 Ohio Safety Congress and Expo…Your road to safety!

For those of you attending LIVE in Columbus, Ohio we are pleased to see you and glad you have taken time out of your busy schedules to be here.

Whether you’re attending health and medical sessions or injury prevention and cost savings sessions or hanging out in the expo hall with 200+ exhibitors, our hope is that you’ll take what you’ve learned back to your office or workplace and share with others.

For those of you unable to attend or checking in from afar, we will do our best to share some of the highlights here along with live tweets via @OhioBWC. We hope you’ll follow along wherever you happen to be. Feel free to jump into the conversation, ask questions or provide feedback.

By expanding the reach of safety and health messages, products and services, we all play a part in:

  • Achieving better outcomes for injured workers;
  • Reducing workers’ compensation claims costs; and
  • Keeping the workforce healthy and productive.

Now, here’s a quick rundown of today’s highlights. All of this and MORE info can be found in the event guide you picked up at the registration desk. Our staff is also available to help you throughout the event, all you have to do is ask!

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Wednesday, March 9
7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Registration

7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Expo Marketplace & Safety Innovations Competition

8 to 9:15 a.m. Educational sessions

9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Opening general session

10:45 a.m. to noon Educational sessions

Noon to 1:15 p.m. Lunch (on your own)

1:15 to 2:15 p.m. General session

2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Dedicated Expo Marketplace time

2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Educational sessions

4 to 5 p.m. Educational sessions