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.

 

 

Customers show us the love during COVID-19

BWC’s economic, health and safety initiatives draw high praise

By Winnie Warren, BWC Interim Chief of Employer Services

Working for the state of Ohio, we all know our job is to serve our fellow Ohioans and hopefully make a positive difference in their lives, so it’s gratifying when our colleagues and leaders take note — an email or video message from Administrator Stephanie McCloud, for instance, or a nod from Governor Mike DeWine at his daily press briefings.

But it’s doubly rewarding when the people you serve reach out and thank you themselves. We’ve received many emails, phone calls and social media posts in recent weeks praising our efforts to help business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic. One call in particular stands out. It was from Heather Baines, the founder and president of HR Construction Services LLC in Cleveland.

Heather Baines, founder and president, HR Construction Services in Cleveland

Heather wanted to personally thank us for two things — a check she received in late April for $9,450, her company’s share of the $1.6 billion dividend we sent to Ohio employers to ease the impact of COVID-19 on their bottom line. She also appreciated the box of 50 face coverings we sent her as part of our Protecting Ohio’s Workforce – We’ve got you covered initiative.

She said both were blessings at a critical time.

“Between the financial help and the masks, it almost made me want to cry because it shows I’m not forgotten,” Heather said. “There have been some terrible days – days where I questioned, ‘What am I doing and why am I still doing this?’”

Heather told me about her business, that all the reasons she started her company — to hire local contractors and bring diversity to jobsites in her hometown while growing a minority-owned business — were coming to fruition. Then the pandemic hit and made a mess of everything.

Getting that check from BWC meant everything, she said. It meant she could pay her workers, her office rent, purchase jobsite materials and fund her employees’ benefits. (Nearly 200,000 Ohio employers received a dividend, which roughly equaled their entire BWC premium in policy year 2018.)

“We’re still new in the construction industry, so paying on time is huge for me,” said Heather, who founded her company in 2015. “That’s a great reputation to have. The money goes out as quick as it comes in, but that check was tremendous and made a big difference.”

The face coverings were another godsend, she said. In late May we started sending at least 2 million face coverings to employers across the state to weaken COVID-19’s spread. We’re not billing employers for this initiative. At less than a dollar a piece, we’re picking up the tab from this year’s budget.

Heather told me her employees had been wearing disposable masks that cost her up to $5 a piece, and they were using the same one on multiple days because supply was hard to find. Her neighbor, who was making masks for health care workers, made some for Heather’s employees, too. Then BWC’s shipment arrived.

“It meant a whole lot that my company was a part of the distribution,” she said. “So often things are given to larger companies, and it’s the smaller ones that can really use the help.”

Thank you to Heather for sharing her story. We’re so glad our mission and agency values of providing superior customer service show up in a myriad of ways. We’re proud to serve Ohioans every day, but especially in their greatest time of need.

Crew members of HR Construction Services in Cleveland wear face coverings provided by BWC while working on an overpass in Cleveland.

Stand down focuses on keeping workers safe in trenches

By Michael Marr, BWC Safety Technical Resources Consultant

In February, a 34-year-old worker died when a trench he was working in collapsed in Licking County. Just last month, a trench collapse killed two workers in Starkville, Mississippi.

Unfortunately, these tragic incidents are reminders of the potential dangers of trenching and excavation work. However, most trenching injuries and fatalities are preventable with proper training and safety equipment.

The 2020 Trench Safety Stand Down, scheduled for June 15-19 and sponsored by the National Utility Contractors Association, gives employers an opportunity to talk directly to their workforce and others about trenching and excavation hazards and to reinforce the importance of protecting workers from them.

The Trench Safety Stand Down encourages employers to take a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity to draw attention to the specific hazards related to working in and around trenches and excavations.

At BWC, we support the stand down and we are strongly committed to preventing trenching accidents, which are often deadly. Earlier this year, we launched the Trench Safety Ohio campaign with accompanying website, TrenchSafetyOhio.com, to increase awareness of the hazards of working in trenches and promoting safe trenching work practices.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we realize it may be a challenge to conduct in-person events, but you can still share resources like our trench safety card (in English and Spanish) with your workers. You also can find additional items and information on our Trench safety resources page.

Additionally, the BWC Learning Center has a recorded webinar – Trenching Overview: A Focus Four Initiative – you and your employees can view for free. Simply log in to the BWC Learning Center, search for Trenching Overview, click the link, and enroll. Employers who have not yet established a BWC Learning Center login can view instructions here.

Whether it’s watching a webinar, sharing videos or information online, or having a smaller event, following proper physical distancing protocols, we hope you’ll take part in the 2020 Trench Safety Stand Down.

Additional resources
OSHA Trenching and Excavation webpage
NIOSH Trenching and Excavation webpage
CPWR Trench Safety webpage

Memorial Day

A Day to Remember and Honor

By Judi Grant, BWC Electronic Design Specialist

Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

One special veteran always comes to mind – my grandfather, Raymond Harley Petty. I honor his memory on this day, and I think about all the veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Although we never met, I carry the impression my grandfather left on my family — respect and love for country, and service to it.

Grandpa enlisted in the Army March 26, 1943, in Columbus. He was 27 and married to my maternal grandmother, Millie.

Pvt. Petty was assigned to the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, which shipped out from Boston on April 6, 1944. His battalion arrived in England on April 17, 1944, then landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, just weeks after D-Day. From there, all my family knew was that my grandfather died from wounds suffered in Germany.

I had searched for years for details on his death. All my inquiries ended the same way, “I’m sorry, all records were burnt in a fire.” In 2019, my father-in-law, Don Grant, a veteran himself, found the answers I was seeking.

We learned my grandfather’s war wounds cost him his left leg, and he died of a blood clot on Nov. 16, 1944 in a hospital in Cambridge, England. Before passing, he received the Purple Heart.

Seven days later, my mother, also named Millie, turned 1. My grandfather had seen pictures of her, but the two never met.

For four years, my grandfather’s remains lay in a beautiful U.S. Military Cemetery in Cambridge, 42 miles northeast of London. In 1948, the Army moved his remains to his final resting place in Beckett Cemetery in Commercial Point, Ohio, about 25 minutes south of downtown Columbus in Pickaway County.

Thanks to my father-in-law’s research, we learned Grandpa was eligible for more than the Purple Heart. In 2018, we received four additional medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation.

I was so proud I immediately framed the medals and other mementoes in a shadow box that hangs in my home office.

Still, something was missing.

I’ve been saddened over the years that I never had a picture of my grandparents and mother together. But that changed last year. On my mother’s birthday, I was looking through old photos and discovered one I had never seen —my grandfather, dressed in full military uniform, standing close to my grandma, who was pregnant with my mother at the time.

I found what I needed.

I am beyond grateful for my grandfather’s sacrifice and that of so many others. On this Memorial Day, as I always do, I’ll ache for the life cut short, the young man who never held his only child, the father my mother never knew. But I will celebrate his life, too.

Thank you, Grandpa.

Military details courtesy of www.tankdestroyer.net.

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.

May 2020: Celebrate National Nurses Month and Year of the Nurse

By Mary Charney, BSN, RN, BBA, Director of Nursing

Nurses are heroes. Nurses make a difference.

Not just in these challenging times during our battle with the coronavirus (COVID-19), but in our everyday lives and those of Ohio’s injured workers. The value that nurses contribute to health care and their role in society is why our nation is celebrating National Nurses Month in May during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

This well-deserved recognition honors the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12. She founded our modern nursing profession.

BWC’s nurses lead at work, home

The value nurses bring to our customers goes way beyond the bedside. While most of BWC’s 61 nurses do not see patients face-to-face every day, they greatly impact Ohio’s injured workers, employers, and their coworkers’ lives. They work in a variety of areas, from medical policy, legal, and employee health to rehabilitation, claims management, compliance, and clinical advisement.

Many of our nurses serve as a medical resource to answer questions from Ohio’s injured workers, providers, managed care organizations, and their coworkers. Others are serving their local communities by working in a hospital emergency department or by making personal protective equipment. Many are assisting their families, friends, and communities with health issues and serving as their advocates.

We, along with the rest of the nation, devote this month and this year to highlighting the diverse ways registered nurses work to improve health care. In honor of National Nurses Month and the Year of the Nurse, thank our nursing professionals for what he or she does every day at work and within our communities. Nurses make a difference by excelling, leading, and innovating for us throughout our lives.


Largest, most trusted health-care profession

In an 18-year running streak, Americans rated nurses as the No. 1 most ethical and honest profession, according to the most recent Gallup poll. This is another reason to celebrate nurses during the Year of the Nurse and it also shines a light on the nursing profession.

The American Nursing Association states that now more than ever, we need to support and recognize nurses for their contributions in crises and for their ongoing roles in meeting the needs of patients and their communities. In these challenging times, we encourage you to promote nurses’ health and well-being and to honor them in every way you can.

Thank you, nurses!

Every nurse has a heart-felt story to tell of how he or she has helped someone during their varied careers. Every day, BWC’s nurses strive to serve as the best resource and provide exemplary service for Ohio’s injured workers and our employees.

BWC’s nurses use their knowledge, talents, dedication to service, and compassion to assist others. I have never reached out to a nurse asking for help with a project or with a workers’ comp claim issue and not received this quick response – “Of course, I will help.”

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families, and ourselves. They may not remember your name, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Take time to thank a nurse today to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts to go above and beyond for all of us. We honor our nurses during National Nurses Month for their hard work and service all year long!

They are truly heroes without capes.

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. 

In challenging times, BWC delivers

Up to $1.6 billion for employers among several measures aimed at weakening COVID-19’s impact

#InThisTogetherOhio

By Stephanie McCloud, BWC Administrator/CEO

One of our core values at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is Relentless Excellence — we are unyielding in our delivery of outstanding service to our customers.

Not just sometimes or in ordinary times, but all the time. This includes the extraordinary times we find ourselves in today given the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents to our economy and virtually every facet of our daily lives.

I hope our customers — Ohio’s injured workers and our employer community — would agree. When the COVID-19 crisis emerged in early March, Governor Mike DeWine called on his agencies, including BWC, to do all we can to support our fellow Ohioans and our business community through these unprecedented times.

We’re doing our best. Take a look.

  • We are sending our private and public employers up to $1.6 billion this month — 100% of the premium they paid in policy year 2018 — to ease COVID-19’s impact on their bottom line and our economy. We started sending checks on Monday, April 20, and should wrap up by Monday, April 27.
  • Before our Board of Directors approved our dividend April 10, we deferred premium payments for employers for March, April, and May until June 1.

“BWC will not cancel coverage or assess penalties for amounts not paid because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted, announcing the deferment on March 21 during Governor DeWine’s daily press briefing. “Installment payments due for the three-month period are totaled at approximately $200 million, and that money will now stay in the economy.”

  • We are working with injured workers to gather the necessary medical evidence to continue benefits that were set to expire on April 30.
  • We have created a special team to handle the newly filed COVID-19 claims to provide them with careful attention.
  • We relaxed or waived deadlines for the following programs that save employers money on their premiums. We are applying the discounts automatically.

– Drug Free Safety Program.
– Grow Ohio.
– EM Cap.
– Industry Specific Safety Program.
– One Claim Program.
– Policy Activity Rebate Program.

  • When Governor DeWine and other state leaders called on all Ohioans to help shore up Ohio’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, BWC responded. Our employees across Ohio uncovered and donated hundreds of N-95 masks, safety goggles, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizers, wipes and more.
  • We have stopped pursuing collections efforts.
  • We continue to make timely payments to our medical providers.
  • We are embracing the use of telemedicine to help injured workers connect with their medical and therapy providers.
  • We continue to issue new workers’ comp policies.
  • We are temporarily waiving some annual requirements for self-insured businesses to ensure they continue operations with certificates of coverage.

Here are some other actions our state is taking to help us through this difficult time:

  • Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted have launched a new “Ohio, Find It Here” campaign to help residents support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit ohio.org/SupportLocalOhio.
  • The state is asking residents and businesses who can donate personal protective equipment (PPE), or any other essential service or resource, to please email Together@Governor.Ohio.Gov.
  • Ohioans can apply for unemployment benefits online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at ohio.gov. It is also possible to file by phone at 877-644-6562 or TTY at 888-642-8203, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Employers with questions should email UCTech@jfs.ohio.gov.

Clearly, business is NOT as usual in Ohio, but our work continues, and we remain committed to excellent service for our customers.

Remember — We are #InThisTogetherOhio.

For more on our programs, visit bwc.ohio.gov. For more on COVID-19 as it relates to BWC, visit this Frequently Asked Questions page. For other questions about COVID-19 related to BWC, you can email BWCCOVID19@bwc.state.oh.us.

For the latest on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit the Ohio Department of Health website coronavirus.ohio.gov, or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

BWC cancels Ohio Safety Congress & Expo due to Coronavirus concerns

ONLINE OPTION STILL ON

By Tony Gottschlich, Public Relations Manager

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud cancelled this week’s Ohio Safety Congress 2020 in-person event due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The health and safety of Ohioans remain our top concern, and we must take every precaution to protect our citizens,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud, following the direction of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and local and state health leaders and experts.

Through emails, social media, and website postings, Administrator/CEO McCloud and safety congress staff informed the 8,600 registered attendees about the cancellation, as well as BWC employees, employers, vendors and other stakeholders in the annual workplace health and safety event, BWC’s 90th this year. BWC will reimburse vendors for their booth space.

Safety congress’s new online component, however, will go on as scheduled, providing the opportunity to secure continuing education credits for professionals in the health care, human resources, safety, and legal communities.

The 8,600 who registered for the in-person event were enrolled automatically for online sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. The online option includes the conference kick-off at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

If you planned to attend any of the educational sessions, please consider the online options available at Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.

Governor DeWine and BWC encourage all of you to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 information by visiting the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) website coronavirus.ohio.gov and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ODH also has a call center open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to answer questions regarding COVID-19. The call center can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

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.

BWC board reduces rates for Ohio’s private employers

Employers will pay $132 million less in premiums next year

Ohio’s private employers will pay nearly $132 million less in premiums to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation next fiscal year under a 13% rate reduction the agency’s Board of Directors approved last week.

The reduction marks BWC’s third largest rate cut in 60 years and follows the agency’s largest rate reduction (20%) that the board approved last year.

“The employers and employees we cover in our system continue to experience fewer and less costly claims, so we’re happy to pass these savings along to our employer community,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “It’s our hope employers will use these savings to invest in the safety and wellness of their workplaces.”

The rate reduction becomes effective July 1, the start of state fiscal year 2021. It will save private employers $131.6 million over this year’s premiums. It also follows a 10% rate reduction for public employers — counties, cities, schools and others — that went into effect Jan. 1. Overall, the average rate levels for the 249,000 private and public Ohio employers in the BWC system are at their lowest in at least 40 years.

Premiums paid to BWC not only cover health care and lost wages for injured workers, they also support BWC’s Safety & Hygiene Division, which offers training, consultations and other services to help employers improve workplace safety. Employer participation in these services has grown by more than 70% since 2010. Total annual claims, meanwhile, have fallen 19% over that time to 84,364 in 2019.

The 13% rate cut represents an average statewide change to premiums and does not include costs related to the administrative cost fund or other funds BWC administers. The actual premium paid by individual private employers depends on several factors, including the expected future claims costs in their industry, their company’s recent claims history, and their participation in various BWC programs.

A history of BWC rate changes since 2000 can be found online by clicking this link.