Feeling the heat? Stay safe with preventive measures

By Isayah Hickson, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

Click on graphic for full size image. Courtesy of the National Weather Service.

A glance at the thermometer tells the story: we’re officially in the dog days of summer.

This means we’re in the hottest part of the season and at greater risk of heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Heat exhaustion is a result of the body
overheating. Common symptoms may include heavy sweating, dizziness, fainting, and rapid pulse.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It occurs when the body’s core temperature rises too high and its natural cooling system stops working. Symptoms may include an altered mental state, lack of perspiration, rash, muscle cramps, exhaustion, and stroke.

Who is at risk?
The risk of heat illness is greatest for workers in hot/humid environments and outdoor workers. People who are obese, have high blood pressure, heart disease, and those over 65 years old may be more susceptible to heat illnesses.

Prevention methods
Below are helpful reminders when working in heat and humidity.

  • Drink one glass (or equivalent) of water every 15 to 30 minutes worked, depending on conditions.
  • Take frequent breaks (five to 10 minutes per hour) to cool down and replenish.
  • Know how prescription drugs you take react to sun and heat exposure.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and non-prescribed drugs.
  • Build up tolerance to the heat (called acclimatization) by initially limiting the physical activity and exposure to the heat and gradually increasing these over a one- to two-week period.
  • Manage work activities and pair them to employees’ physical conditions. Adapt work and pace to the weather.
  • Use special protective gear (if available), such as cooling garments and cooling vests on “early entry” workers.
  • Know and review first-aid techniques for heat-related conditions.

There’s an app for that
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a smart phone app – the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool – to assess heat stress risk where outdoor activities are planned. You can download it on the App Store or Google Play.

BWC, area fire departments offering safety stand-down events this week

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer

Statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show firefighters have a 9% higher risk of a cancer diagnosis and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public.

The 2019 Firefighter Stand-Down, happening this week, is focusing on this hazard with its theme – Reduce Your Exposure: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility. We are partnering with a number of Ohio fire departments this week to provide training related to the national stand-down and the theme of reducing exposure to cancer-causing elements on the job.

Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20 – 1 p.m.
The Eastlake Fire Department will host an event for area fire departments covering:

Other participating departments include Mentor, Kirkland, Wickliffe, Willowick, Willoughby and Willoughby Hills. Event address: 35150 Lakeshore Blvd., Eastlake, Ohio 44095

Thursday, June 20 – 10 a.m.
The Whitehouse Fire Department and Waterville Fire Department will co-host an event at the Whitehouse Fire Department. The agenda includes info about:

Event address: 10550 Waterville St., Whitehouse, Ohio 43571

Thursday, June 20 – 6 p.m.
The City of Washington Court House Fire Department will host an event for volunteer fire departments in Fayette County. It will focus on the department’s decontamination practices and an update from BWC’s PERRP. Event address: 225 E. Market St., Washington Court House, Ohio 43160.

Learn more about BWC grants for firefighters
To help protect firefighters from carcinogens and other harmful toxins, we offer the Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program. Started in FY 2018, the program has issued nearly $6.5 million to date to help more than 600 fire departments across the state purchase specialized, life-saving equipment, removing cost as a barrier.

How a new data tool can make your workplace safer

BWC/NIOSH partnership makes injury data easier to understand  

By Mike Lampl, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene Research Director

Wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to easily identify what’s causing injuries and what types of injuries have been rising in your industry?

We thought it would be. So, we partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to produce data visualization charts that display summaries of 1.2 million Ohio workers’ compensa­tion injury claims.

These data visualization charts – also called dashboards – are an interactive way to share information and explore large datasets efficiently. This interactive tool, covering claims from 2001 to 2011, displays injury trends by year, industry, and diagnosis or cause of injury. In the coming months, BWC and NIOSH will add data for more calendar years.

With the dashboards, you can create personalized views of charts that display claim counts and rates by general cause of injury.You can use this information to target ergonomic and safety prevention activities by understanding injury trends by year, industry, and diagnosis or cause of injury. The dashboards include:

  • Dynamic and interactive charts that are user-friendly and easy to read.
  • Summaries of workers’ compensation claims (both counts and rates) by general cause of injury.
  • A detailed look at the largest and smallest industry sectors in the state.

The dashboards are user friendly and straightforward. For example, a user can go to the Detailed Industry Results page and select their industry from 267 options*. In this case, say Warehousing and Storage. From the dashboard, the user can then view claims count, frequency, full-time equivalent employees and prevention index. Prevention index is a method for ranking an industry in terms of frequency of injuries and injury rates.

Additionally, users can filter results to see what the prevention index is for ergonomic-related injuries; slips, trips and falls; and all other injuries. If the prevention index ranking is highest for ergonomic-related injuries, the industry should be focusing on preventing ergonomic injuries.

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene uses information from these dashboards to pinpoint industries and associated employers that could use specific, no-cost safety services we offer.

Thankfully, the overall trend for claims rates is going down in Ohio, which users can see in the General Industry Results page of the dashboard. A report that our research staff prepared shows the total recordable cases incidence rate of 2.7 in Ohio in 2016 was lower than the national rate of 3.2 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers.

Ohio businesses and employees are already doing an excellent job of improving processes and practices related to occupational safety and health. We’re confident these dashboards, born out of our partnership with NIOSH, will be another powerful resource for making Ohio’s workplaces even safer.

* Industry options are based on the North American Industry Classification System codes.

National Safety Month: Worker wellness and workplace safety – a dynamic duo

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Abbott and Costello, peanut butter and jelly, R2-D2 and C-3PO. Some people, foods and droids are just better together. The same goes for employee wellness and workplace safety.

The National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute recently released a report stating workplaces should expand beyond initiatives such as smoking cessation and weight loss to include health and safety issues such as fitness, nutrition, workplace fatigue, overtime management and job security.

This same approach is the foundation for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) Total Worker Health® Program. As a Total Worker Health Affiliate, we work with NIOSH to foster and reinforce an integrated approach to protecting and promoting worker well-being. We’re also committed to improving the health and wellness of Ohio workers with programs such as our recently launched Better You, Better Ohio!™ program and our workplace wellness grants.

Our Better You, Better Ohio! program provides health and wellness resources and services to workers who work for small employers (50 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries. Eligible employers and workers can sign up at no cost and through a simple, paperless process. Workers can pursue a healthier lifestyle through:

  • Free health assessments and biometric screenings to better understand their health and well-being.
  • A member engagement website that allows them to develop health plans and track their progress to achieve their health goals.
  • Health and wellness awareness, education and training.
  • Digital coaching to help them on their journey to better health.

Meanwhile, Ohio employers can reap the benefits of having a healthy workforce. Healthy employees are less prone to injury. And, when they are injured, their ability to recover is enhanced greatly.

While we’re working for Ohioans, the National Safety Council (NSC) is promoting wellness as this week’s National Safety Month theme. Visit the NSC website for materials like this wellness tip sheet.

Get focused for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Cat videos are hilarious. Just not while you’re behind the wheel. And maybe eat that burrito in the restaurant instead of taking one for the road.

With smartphones, busy schedules and multitasking, it’s easier than ever to be distracted while driving. In fact, it’s now the No. 1 cause of crashes in the U.S., with nearly 3,500 Americans killed by distracted driving in 2015.*

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the perfect time to discuss the dangers of this growing problem with family, friends and co-workers. At BWC, we’re doing our part to raise awareness about distracted driving as part of our newest safety campaign. For example, did you know there are three types of distractions while driving? They are:

  1. Visual distractions that take your eyes off the road;
  2. Manual distractions that take your hands off the wheel;
  3. Cognitive distractions that take your mind off the task at hand.

You can learn more about all three and much more on our safe driving page.

If you want even more information about distracted driving, there is no shortage of it online. The National Safety Council (NSC) has a Distracted Driving Month section on its site. It’s also offering a free webinar – Engaging Ways to Address Distracted Driving at Work – on April 19. You can register for it on the NSC website.

Still want more? Try the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s distracted driving website or the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s Distracted Driving at Work. Just not while you’re driving.

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics

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.

BWC research seeks better strategies for workplace injury prevention, injured worker care

We’ve written before about our efforts to collaborate on research into a number of issues that impact the entire workers’ compensation industry. BWC is the sole provider of workers’ compensation insurance coverage in the state, meaning we have a comprehensive set of data that can offer insight into how the industry can reduce workplace injuries and improve care for those who are hurt on the job.

Another study was recently released that examines how best to utilize workers’ comp data to monitor and prevent injuries in the private sector.  Dr. Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent of BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene, contributed to the study, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We invite you to review an abstract of the study – Development of Methods for Using Workers’ Compensation Data for Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries Among State-Insured Private Employers in Ohiohere.

We hope our participation in research projects like this will contribute to the development of solutions that can be used right here in Ohio, and by our counterparts across the country.

That’s not just a tight spot … that’s a confined space!

PERRP pictureBy Glenn McGinley, Director, Ohio Public Employment Risk Reduction Program and member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Confined Space Safe Work Practices

Have you ever had a feeling of claustrophobia – that feeling that you’re trapped and a longing for open spaces while the refrain of “don’t fence me in” plays repeatedly in your mind?

Maybe your intuition is trying to tell you something…something you should listen to.

Each year, on average, at least one worker dies every week performing work in confined spaces and dozens more are seriously injured. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program, there is an average of 92 confined-space-related fatalities every year.1

Unfortunately, these fatality statistics don’t fluctuate very much year to year and the overall number of annual fatalities hasn’t changed much since the creation of the OSHA “general industry” permit-required confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) in 1993. In 2015, a new OSHA standard for the construction industry (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) went into effect and this new standard and other new publications have turned the spotlight on the hazards of confined space work.

So why hasn’t there been a significant reduction in confined space related fatalities? I think the answer is a lack of recognition of the nature and existence of confined spaces in workplaces.

Many workplaces have enclosed or confined spaces that require procedures, training and appropriate equipment before employees can safely enter and perform assigned work tasks. However, many times employers have not identified these spaces and employees are unaware of their existence or the precautions that are necessary to ensure their safety.

What is a confined space?
The OSHA standards define a confined space as a space that:

  • Has a restricted or limited means of entry/exit;
  • Isn’t designed for continuous occupancy by employees, but is large enough for employees to “bodily enter” and perform work.

There are a lot of work areas that meet this definition. When a hazardous condition exists or is introduced into that work space it can become life threatening very quickly. Examples of confined spaces include sewers, silos, vats, vaults and tanks (open and closed). Areas like crawlspaces, air handlers and ductwork are also prime examples of confined spaces.

The standard also identifies high risk spaces or “permit-required” confined spaces as those spaces that have one or more potentially hazardous characteristics that include:

  • An actual or potentially hazardous atmosphere;
  • Material(s) that can engulf (cover or trap) an entrant;
  • Walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant;
  • Any other recognized safety or health hazard (e.g., unguarded machinery, exposed energized electrical wires and temperature extremes).

So, what are some best practices that employers can use to identify confined spaces and ensure they eliminate or control hazardous conditions when employees work in or around those spaces?

The following are resources to help you identify confined spaces and then begin the process of developing and implementing a confined space program in your workplace.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently issued NFPA 350, Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. This extensive resource focuses on “best practices” and provides a how-to for confined space entry and work. The document explains and interprets what the regulations require and provides practical approaches to implement those requirements. The OSHA standards establish minimum requirements, while the “NFPA 350 strives to establish work practices that achieve a higher level of safety.”

OSHA Publication 3825, (September 2015), Protecting Construction Workers in Confined Spaces: Small Entity Compliance Guide addresses some of the most-common compliance issues that employers will face. While OSHA has geared it toward the construction industry, many of the concepts are useful for developing a program for any workplace. OSHA also has “safety and health topics” pages with additional confined resources for general industry and construction employers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also has a web page devoted to confined space information. The web page contains several resources, including the results of fatality investigations and health hazard evaluations that it has conducted under the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) and Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) programs.

BWC’s multi-disciplinary team of experts and services can assist you with identifying confined spaces in your workplace and with the process of developing a confined space program.

BWC also has an excellent training program on Confined Space Assessment and Work and a confined space “Safety Talk” that can help jumpstart the confined space conversation in your workplace.

Our team is available to help your team improve safety in your workplace. Give us a call today!

1 Source: U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).

Looking for a way to reduce injury rates?

By Julie Darby-Martin, BWC Safety Congress Manager

You’ve read in previous blogs of many safety services BWC offers Ohio employers. In part because of these services and other efforts by BWC, Ohio’s injury rate is below the national average. Injury claims have dropped more than 10 percent over the past 5 years. These numbers are convincing when you consider the fact that Ohio’s workforce is approaching six million employees.

We’re dedicated to continuing this trend by educating Ohio employers. One way of doing so is our free annual conference – the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC).expo floor aisle

OSC helps employers increase their knowledge of safety standards, learn safety training techniques and see newly-introduced products and services to protect your workforce from injury and illness. Session topics and expo displays cover everything from safety compliance, emergency response, personal protective equipment and workers’ compensation.gen session 2

This year’s OSC will host two notable keynote presenters – Dr. L. Casey Chosewood, director, Office for Total Worker Health® for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mark Kowaleski, chief of the Safety and Health Division at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.portable lights

More than 6,000 people attended OSC in 2015. Why not consider joining them in 2016? Registration opens in January at www.bwc.ohio.gov.besafeohio pic