Prevent COVID-19 spread through HVAC improvements

Indoor Air Quality focus of March 3 webinar

By Jeff Hutchins, MS, CIH, Regional Loss Prevention Manager

We all know a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning can weaken the spread of COVID-19. So can improvements to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

How to do that in a smart, step-wise fashion will be the subject of a free webinar we’re hosting from 2-3:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, in partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Employers and building owners wanting to improve their indoor air quality will benefit from this webinar.

In the age of COVID-19, indoor air quality, or IAQ, has taken on a whole new dimension. Since the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air, maintaining safe and healthy IAQ becomes a vital link in preventing the disease. It also reduces the risk of other indoor health concerns. (IAQ, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.)

Register for the webinar here.  (We will also offer the webinar during our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo  March 10-11.)

Topics covered include:

  • Increasing outside air and room (or building) air exchanges.
  • Improving central HVAC filtration.
  • Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration to enhance central HVAC system air cleaning, particularly in high risk areas.
  • Deploying ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement where increased ventilation and/or filtration options are limited.

The webinar also details BWC’s COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. This federally funded program originally targeted nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day centers, but we are expanding the program to include the following:

  • Intermediate care facilities.
  • Hospices.
  • Senior centers.
  • Adult care facilities.
  • Waiver settings (group homes).
  • Substance use treatment centers.

For more on IAQ, I encourage you to check out these resources:

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.

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).

OSC19 – It was great to connect with YOU!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Thank you to all who made a workplace safety and health connection with us last week at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2019 (OSC19)!

More than 8,000 attendees joined us for three days of workplace safety and health education, in-depth workshops, live demonstrations and much more. And more than 300 vendors made the Expo Marketplace more dynamic than ever.

It was great to see so many of you sharing your #OSC19 experience on social media, including our first-ever Snapchat filter. For a recap, check out the highlights in our Twitter recap and scroll back through our blog coverage from last week.

Remember to visit the OSC19 website’s Attendee Service Center by March 22 if you need to print course attendance certificates or access presentation materials from many of the sessions.

We hope you enjoyed your time with us this year. Remember to mark your calendars for OSC20, March 11-13, 2020, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

We can’t wait to celebrate the 90th safety congress with all of you!

Violence against EMS workers a real threat

Self defense training, fitness needed, firefighter tells Ohio Safety Congress & Expo

By Tony Gottschlich, Media Relations Public Information Officer

Firefighters and paramedics are in the business of saving lives, but few are prepared to save their own when they encounter hostile situations on the job, a firefighter/paramedic and self-defense coach told an audience Friday morning at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“There’s a huge problem and we need to start coming up with solutions to do something about it,” Jon Grabo told a gathering of Ohio EMS personnel during an educational session entitled, Violence Against Providers: Information and Options for EMS Professionals.

Grabo pointed to federal CDC statistics noting 2,600 EMS personnel received hospital treatment in 2014 due to on-the-job violence. He added that EMS workers are 10 times more likely to be assaulted than the general population.

“Every run has the potential to turn violent,” the nine-year veteran of the Grandview Heights Fire Department said. “And it’s not just from the drunks, the domestic violence calls, the overdoses … It’s anytime, anyplace, from anyone.”

In his 1-hour presentation, Grabo showed videos of real-world violence against EMS personnel, discussed how to recognize a potentially violent situation and offered some options for dealing with it.

He made a strong case for EMS workers to stay physically fit. “Fitness may be the deciding factor in preventing injuries,” he said. “Fitness matters, it always matters.” And he made a stronger case for self-defense training that involves fighting back, not just deflecting blows. “Someone swings at me with a knife and I’m not supposed to take him down?”

The best and first option should be to escape the scene, put some distance between yourself and the threat, he said. Others include reason and talking. Force should always be the last option and should never be punitive, he said. “It is a means for stopping an attack or allowing for escape.”

Asked about his own hostile encounters on the job, Grabo replied, “I’ve been threatened, I’ve been challenged and everything, but I am really good at talking to people. I’ve never had to go hands on.”

Reversing the opioid epidemic

Pain expert argues for systematic effort

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer, Media Relations

The opioid crisis afflicting the nation is “the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history” and the United States needs a systematic effort to reverse it, a leading pain and workers’ compensation expert told a group of Ohio employers and workers gathered for the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo Wednesday.

“At least 7-10 million patients in the U.S. who are on chronic opioids are highly dependent or addicted,” said Gary Franklin, MD, MPH, a neurologist and medical director of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. “They’re in deep trouble and there’s no systematic effort out there to help them. Most go to their primary care doctors, who have no idea what to do, and a lot of these patients are getting abandoned. That’s the worst thing that can happen.”

Franklin’s lecture, entitled, “Reversing the Opioid Epidemic and Improving Pain Care,” was one of dozens offered on the opening day for Safety Congress, the annual safety and occupational health event sponsored by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Franklin said if this country is serious about reversing the opioid epidemic, it needs to do three things:

  • Prevent the next wave of opioid users. Research shows most opioids don’t help most chronic pain patients. Many get worse and fewer return to work. Prescribe non-opioid analgesics as a first-line treatment.
  • Systematically address and treat the millions or patients already on long-term opioids.
  • Deliver community based, multimodal care for pain. There is strong evidence supporting cognitive behavioral therapy and psychologically informed physical therapy, he said.

And perhaps the most obvious of all: “If your patients aren’t improving, don’t give them more opioids.”

“This is a mess, and it’s our job as public servants to figure out how to help these patients,” said Franklin, who is also a research professor at the University of Washington.

While giving an overall bleak assessment of the opioid crisis and its challenges, Franklin paused in his lecture to compliment the Buckeye state, pointing to Gov. Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio plan and BWC’s Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program.

He ended his lecture with another positive note. “I do think we’re all in this together and we can figure it out.”

Franklin was joined in the lecture by Dr. Terry Welsh, BWC’s chief medical officer, who spoke about the substance use recovery program and other BWC efforts to mitigate the impact of the opioid crisis on the workforce. Also speaking was Tom Wickizer, a professor of public health at The Ohio State University. Wickizer made a case for an occupational health care model that can prevent long-term and/or permanent disability.

Welcome to day 3 of connecting at OSC19!

We hope you’re enjoying everything OSC19 has to offer! Our final day will feature a host of lectures, workshops and another live demo covering important safety and health topics.

Day two was a busy one! Colette Carlson, founder of Speak Your Truth, Inc., kicked off the day with an informative and fun talk about the importance of connecting and communicating to form the crucial relationships that drive productivity, engagement and collaboration.

She said the most successful people are those who can effectively communicate and connect.

Below, Colette gives a humorous demonstration of all the things we must worry about in a day. Maybe you just had to be there.

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene Superintendent Abe Al-Tarawneh led an educational session on the future of the workers’ compensation industry and occupational safety and health programming. Abe talked about the advances in science and technology that have led to major changes to business operations, resulting in structural changes to the economy and workforce utilization.

We presented four Ohio employers with Safety Innovation Awards yesterday.

These annual awards recognize employers who developed innovative solutions to safety concerns in their workplaces. Congrats to our winners!

  • 1st place – Francis Manufacturing Company (Russia, Shelby County)
  • 2nd place -TERYDON Inc. (Navarre, Stark County)
  • 3rd place – J&R Farms (Mount Vernon, Knox County)
  • Honorable Mention – Yoder Drilling & Geothermal Inc. (Sugarcreek, Tuscarawas County)

We heard from a long-time safety professional whose catastrophic motorcycle accident inspired him to share his message. He told attendees that “whether you’re at work or at home, all it takes is a split second for something to happen and change lives forever.” Read more in yesterday’s blog post, ‘A split second’ nearly cost safety expert his life.

And finally, we said farewell to our 315 Expo Marketplace exhibitors yesterday afternoon. Thanks to all our vendors who make it possible for us to offer OSC free of charge!

We’re looking forward to a great last day of OSC19!

‘A split second’ nearly cost safety expert his life

Banged up but grateful, Derek Sang addresses Ohio Safety Congress

By Tony Gottschlich, Media Relations Public Information Officer

Derek Sang has worked his entire career in safety. He’s delivered 250 seminars on the subject across the globe, and he’s a frequent keynote speaker on the hazards of arc flash, flash fire and general safety.

The Arizona resident, who works in the flame-resistant clothing industry, also loves motorcycles, and he had racked up over a half million miles on the road without an incident until one evening in November 2016. As he entered a busy highway in Scottsdale, Arizona, a vehicle bumped his back tire, sending Sang and his $35,000 Harley-Davidson careening into a wall.

“Whether you’re at work or at home, all it takes is a split second for something to happen and change lives forever,” said Sang, speaking to a capacity audience Wednesday morning at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The crash shattered Sang’s body and launched the 50-year-old married father and grandfather on a long, grueling road to recovery involving multiple surgeries, excruciating skin graphs and enough hardware to stock a Home Depot store. Add to it the many hours of physical and occupational therapy, the toll on family, friends and colleagues and nearly $1 million in health care bills (covered by insurance, thankfully).

And Sang blames himself for all of it.

“We rode hard, we rode fast, we were experts,” Sang said of his motorcycle club. “I was overconfident and I was complacent. The day that accident happened I thought I was better than anyone else on the road.”

What does this have to do with job safety? Sang asked. Do we take shortcuts? Are we overconfident? When we’re used to performing repetitive but dangerous tasks, it’s easy to become desensitized to it, he said. There are names for this phenomenon, including “unintended blindness” and “normalization of deviance.”

Sang challenged his audience of employers and workers to think closely about those questions and examine their mindset. “What is your safety culture?”

“Complacency coupled with a false sense of security can and do produce catastrophic results,” he said. “It only takes a split second.”

Let’s connect at OSC19!

The 2019 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo continues today with a full day of educational sessions and expo activities!

Some of today’s highlights include general session speaker Colette Carlson sharing the importance of connecting with others, live safety demonstrations, Passport to Safety prize giveaways and much more. We look forward to connecting with you!

Yesterday was an exciting day with BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud kicking off the first day of OSC by sharing the story of a family member who was injured while working around electricity.

The Expo Marketplace was busy all day! It was great to see exhibitors, instructors and attendees sharing their experiences on Twitter. See @OhioBWC for retweets.

Passport to Safety prizes were awarded throughout the day thanks to many generous vendors.

Live demonstration: Pushing and Pulling – What is Safe?

We had a full house for many popular sessions including, How to Be a Powerful Safety Change Agent.

If you have questions about BWC programs or services, we hope you’ll stop by booth 715 to chat with our experts.

Remember to refer to your event guide or the mobile app for session descriptions and locations, expo marketplace map and Passport to Safety guide. Enjoy your day!

OSC19 is all about workplace safety and health connections

By Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

Workplace safety and health are about connections; connecting best practices to work processes, connecting safety and health to your organization’s core values, and connecting your workforce to the resources it needs.

Every year, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC) provides these resources to attendees during a three-day event, but the knowledge they receive lasts well beyond their brief time at OSC. Attendees take what they learn back to their businesses and use it to improve their workplaces as well as the safety and health of their employees, sharpen the quality of their products and services, and expand their productivity.

The theme for OSC, which opens today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, is Connecting YOU to Safety & Health. This theme gets to the heart of the event – it connects Ohio employers with safety experts from all parts of the U.S., to provide the know-how to make their workplaces even safer and healthier. The Expo Marketplace – featuring more than 300 exhibitors – also connects attendees with the latest and greatest safety products and services.


The event is truly about and for YOU, the attendees. Every year we ask our attendees to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Your feedback shapes our offerings and it allows us to continuously improve our educational programming and services and thereby your experiences during the event.

Speaking of which, I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that go into this event each year. From our planning committees and guest speakers to the expo vendors and BWC staff, the planning, preparation and commitment from staff and volunteers results in an event I’m truly proud of, and one that makes Ohio one of the safest and best places to work and live.