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.

Congrats to the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards finalists!

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

Sometimes workplace safety issues require employers to think outside the box for solutions. It’s inspiring to see the ideas they develop to overcome workplace hazards. To spotlight these employers, their innovative spirit, and their commitment to workplace safety, we sponsor our annual Safety Innovation Awards.

The program recognizes innovations that result in risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations. Examples of innovations include:

  • Technological advancements.
  • Creative use of existing equipment.
  • Unique processes and practices.
  • Development of new equipment.

This year we received more than 70 applications for consideration! After careful deliberations, we are pleased to introduce the following employers as the five finalists for the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards.

Diversified Fall Protection (Westlake) – Portable Truss Anchor
Diversified Fall Protection engineers, manufacturers, and distributes fall protection equipment. The company is located in the Cleveland area.

In an industrial setting, working at height above machinery poses a fall hazard. Unstable ladders and limited styles of fall protection when working in such an environment have proven to be 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.

The 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 at height. 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 it is needed.

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

­Fort Amanda Specialties (Lima) – Custom Cleaning-in-Place Safety Solution
Fort Amanda Specialties, LLC is a joint venture of Nouryon and BASF Corporation. They are a chemical producer of high-quality chelates.

Transport screws are used to move solid product in a multi-product processing unit. Cleaning out these screws during product changes created multiple hazardous 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.

Custom made wash lids were designed with Plexiglass windows for inspection. The lids were installed along with permanently mounted spray nozzles inside, eliminating the need for manual high-pressure cleaning the rotating screw.

Contact with moving equipment and exposure to high-pressure water is eliminated. Wash water is contained inside the enclosure, reducing water use and eliminating slip hazards.

Mt. Vernon City Schools (Knox County) – Rapid Barricade
Mt. Vernon City Schools is a school district in Knox County 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, many of these facilities 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 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 Rapid Barricade. After the design was perfected, a patent was awarded. Workers can install the Rapid Barricade on any ADA-compliant door. It deploys in seconds and can withstand 1,200 pounds of force.

TFO Tech Co., LTD (Jeffersonville) – Furnace Pulley Unloader
TFO Tech Co., LTD produces wheel hubs, crankshafts, CVT pulleys, and other automotive parts in Jeffersonville, Ohio.

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

The innovation drops down and encloses the parts in a steel frame. The frame slides the product off the conveyor and into the basket. Rather than manually raking the parts, workers complete the process with the push of a button.

This innovation significantly reduced the ergonomic risks by eliminating the raking motion and reduced the workers’ heat exposure because the operator’s panel is about 5 feet farther away from the hot parts than the original operating position.

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 Hamilton, Ohio.

In a manufacturing facility that works 24/7, with nearly 700 employees, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions were happening. Unfortunately, they were often not being reported, nor addressed. Before implementation, the site had an average of about four near misses being reported per month, and they were coming from the same few supervisors. It was a cumbersome reporting process that required the worker to download a four-page document from the intranet, complete it, print it, and then have it signed by multiple people. The process was slow; often the Safety Department was not aware of a near miss until it landed in its mailbox, days later.

The innovation changed the near miss reporting process from a tedious, long paper document to a short, quick, and easy electronic submission method called the “Near Miss App.” The app was developed through web-based software called Smartsheet. Anyone can submit the online form, and it puts 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 resulting investigations helped them reduce their Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable rate from 3.03 to .91, and their lost-time accident rate from 3.61 to 0.

The five finalists will be on hand at the Safety Innovation Awards booth at the 2020 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC 2020) March 11-13 in Columbus. Stop by to learn more about the innovations and vote for your favorite when you’re at OSC 2020.

We will present awards and monetary prizes to the finalists during OSC 2020, but the real winners are the employees of these companies. Innovations like the ones above help workers stay safe and healthy, increase productivity and morale, and produce long-term cost savings.

Click on the image below to register for #OSC2020.

Ohio business owners owe more than $800K following fraud-related convictions

Three Northeast Ohio men owe the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $800,000 after investigators discovered they were operating their businesses without workers’ compensation coverage.

“These business owners learned the hard way they cannot operate their business without workers’ compensation coverage, and now they owe us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “I’m pleased our investigators stopped these employers from continuing to break the law and cheat our system.”

William H. Foster III

William H. Foster III, owner of American Construction Group LTD, pleaded guilty Feb. 11 in a Summit County courtroom to a second-degree misdemeanor of obstructing official business after failing to work with BWC to reinstate his policy. A judge sentenced Foster to credit for time served in jail and to follow the payment agreement he made with the BWC and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to reinstate his policy. Foster owes BWC more than $360,000 in past premiums and penalties.

Paul “Bob” Collier Jr.

In Stark County, Paul “Bob” Collier Jr. and Miklos Fioretto pleaded guilty on Jan. 17 and Feb. 5, respectively, to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud for failing to maintain coverage on their East Sparta, Ohio, business.

Investigators discovered that Fioretto and Collier changed the name of their pallet manufacturing business to avoid paying past premiums and penalties associated with the business.

Both men were sentenced to three years of community service. A condition of probation is to pay BWC restitution of $458,125.

In other news: A Columbus woman was ordered to pay BWC $6,941 in restitution on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC investigators discovered Jamia Smith, 39, working for a staffing firm while concealing that information from BWC to continue collecting disability benefits. A judge also sentenced Smith to three years of probation in lieu of six months in jail. To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit www.bwc.ohio.gov.

Black History Month: For my family, voting is a generational experience

By Eric Bruce, Customer Service Representative, Ohio Ethics Commission

Eric Bruce, Customer Service Representative with the Ohio Ethics Commission, stands with his mother, Essie Bruce, following BWC’s Black History Month celebration on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask my mother many things about her life growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, at her age of 97, I have a full collection of stories and plenty of information. But I had never asked her about her voting experience until just a few days ago.

Essie Bruce, a retired librarian who worked at the Dayton Metro Library and the University of Dayton main library, never voted in Arkansas because she was too young when she lived there. But she told me how her parents in the late 1930s and early ‘40s saved money and paid the required poll taxes to vote, a practice of the era that was used to discourage or suppress black voting.

After completing her degree in library science, my mother worked at colleges and universities in Texas and Oklahoma, but never voted in those states either, as voting was not encouraged in the African American community.

My mom moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1950, where her landlady, an Ohio-born African American with a long history of voting, strongly encouraged her to register to vote. My mother voted for the first time in a voting station temporarily housed in a neighbor’s garage, and this was the beginning of a lifetime of voting.

She became a strong voting advocate over the years, encouraging me and others to register to vote. She quickly became a well-informed voter, too, keeping up with current issues. When I was about 8 years old, she took me inside a voting machine and explained the process. By the time I turned 18, I was eager to register to vote, like a long-awaited rite of passage.

In 2008, my youngest son turned 18. To celebrate, we decided to vote together as a family with my two older sons. We carefully coordinated work and school schedules to arrive at our Gahanna polling station at the same time. As we celebrated this historic family event, my wife Vivian noticed a few mean stares from other voters. We were the only African American voters there, and they likely assumed who and what we were there to support.

We were disappointed but not discouraged. That experience was a good lesson that our vote does make a difference. We expect our grandchildren to continue to exercise their right to vote and remember their ancestors who fought for them to have that opportunity.

Thanks, Mom.

BWC adds three counties to worker recovery program

By Widlynn Milor, BWC Communications Department Intern

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud visited London, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to announce Clark, Greene, and Madison counties have joined a BWC program that encourages employers to hire workers in recovery from substance use disorder.

Under BWC’s Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program (SUR-WSP), BWC will pay for drug screenings and special training for managers to help local employers hire, better manage, and retain workers recovering from addiction to opioids and other dangerous substances.

“This is about workplace safety and meeting the challenges Governor DeWine outlined in his RecoveryOhio initiative,” Administrator McCloud told an audience of public leaders and recovery experts gathered at the Madison County Municipal Courthouse. “We know when workers in recovery get a job, they are more likely to stay on a successful path. In addition, the special training managers receive emphasizes safety and appropriate strategies that benefit the worker and employer both.”

SUR-WSP launched in October 2018 in three counties: Montgomery, Ross and Scioto. Governor DeWine expanded the program in BWC’s latest budget, pledging up to $15 million over 2020 and 2021 to include nine more counties.

The program is funded by BWC but is administered by local Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) boards or similar boards. Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties (MHRB) will be leading efforts in its jurisdiction.

“The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties is thrilled to join this effort,” said Greta Mayer, chief executive officer at MHRB. “Our board is investing heavily in workplace and workforce efforts, because we know that it is beneficial for both employers and people in recovery.”

MHRB will identify eligible employers and employees, disperse funding, and measure results. BWC funds cover the following:

  • Reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing.
  • Training for managers/supervisors to help them better manage a workforce that includes individuals in recovery.

More information can be found on our website.

Deadline for Safety Grant applications approaches

Ohio employers seeking grants from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to invest in safety measures have until March 31 to apply for funds in this year’s fiscal budget.

Employers who miss that deadline must wait until July 1, the first day to apply for fiscal 2021 funding under BWC’s popular Safety Grants program.

“We appreciate Ohio employers who take safety seriously and seek our assistance funding equipment aimed at reducing or eliminating workplace injuries and illnesses,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

Applications for fiscal 2020 funds via U.S. mail must be postmarked no later than March 31. The online application service will close after March 31 and not re-open until July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2021.

BWC offers $20 million a year in safety grants. As of Jan. 3, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene had approved 616 grant requests. Another 304 were pending.

The March 31 deadline applies to the following grants:

• Safety Intervention
• Employers Working with Persons with Developmental Disabilities
• Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements
• School Safety and Security
• Workplace Wellness

Safety Grants are available to all Ohio state-fund, private and public taxing district employers to purchase equipment to eliminate or reduce workplace hazards. You can find more information on our Safety Grants program on our website.

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