BWC spotlights employers’ workplace safety ingenuity

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

At BWC, we’re constantly amazed at the innovative ideas employers have for tackling workplace hazards. To spotlight these employers, their ingenuity and their commitment to workplace safety, we sponsor our annual Safety Innovation Awards.

We created the program to recognize innovations that result in risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations. Innovations can range from a newly–created piece of equipment, tool, process or method to an existing one that an employer has improved or uses in a new or creative way.

After careful consideration of dozens of applications and visits to the sites of eight semifinalists, we are pleased to announce the following employers as the four finalists for the 2018 Safety Innovation Awards.

MPW Industrial Services (Hebron) – M1-RV crawler
A remote-controlled vacuuming system that cleans clarifier tanks; it eliminates employee exposure from hazards of entering and cleaning clarifier tanks

Navistar (Springfield) – Cab destructive weld tear down
An articulating arm that holds a worker’s pneumatic tool during weld tear down of truck cabs; it reduces the potential of falling, bad postures and awkward positions due to high reaction forces on employees during the process

Ramco Electric Motors (Greenville) – Aluminum die-casting automated biscuit return
A conveyor system that delivers aluminum die-casting byproducts (aka “biscuits”) from the casting machine back to the 1,300-degree liquid aluminum bath; the system eliminates the exposures of an individual performing the task of dropping the biscuits back in the crucible

Terracon Consultants Inc. (Cincinnati) – YM3000 pin puller
A redesigned T-handle that is adjustable in height and allows employees to remain standing when pulling 28-inch pins (used for soil density readings) from the ground; it decreases the potential of back or wrist strains from pin pulling, helps reduce fatigue and increases productivity

The four finalists will present their innovations to a three-judge panel and the public at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2018 (OSC18) in Columbus on March 7-9.

The panel of independent judges will select the winners using a number of criteria, including risk reduction, innovation, return on investment, potential for other employers to use the innovation and presentation quality. OSC18 attendees can cast a vote for their favorite innovation to determine the recipient of The People’s Choice award.

We will present the awards and monetary prizes during a ceremony at OSC18. However, the real winners are the employees of these companies. Innovations like the ones listed above help workers stay safe and healthy, increase productivity and morale, and produce long-term cost savings.

Making a better Ohio with health and wellness

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Improved health and wellness leads to a better quality of life in all aspects of our lives, including the workplace.

Living a healthy, balanced life can help prevent injury or help workers recover more quickly if they are hurt on the job. That’s why we’re launching Better You, Better Ohio!™ – a program designed to provide health and wellness resources and services to workers who work for small Ohio employers (50 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries*.

Better You, Better Ohio! takes the stress out of implementing or joining a workplace wellness program thanks to a simple, paperless sign-up process for workers and no costs for the employee or employer. The program offers:

  • Health and wellness awareness, education and training;
  • Health assessments and biometric screenings for better understanding of their health and well-being;
  • A member engagement website that allows them to develop health plans and track their progress to achieve their goals;
  • A state-of-the art mobile app for creating weekly action plans and getting health tips;
  • Digital coaching to help them on their journey to better health.

Why we’re offering Better You, Better Ohio!

Ohio, like much of the nation, is facing major health challenges driven primarily by obesity, aging and the rise in chronic diseases (i.e. diabetes and cardiovascular diseases). As of 2017, Ohio’s health ranking stood at 39th among the 50 states. These health challenges and outcomes are mostly associated with lifestyle behaviors. Individuals can improve these behaviors by using the resources and support services health and wellness programs like Better You, Better Ohio! offer.

Want to know more?

Visit our Better You, Better Ohio! webpage for additional details.

*Agriculture; automotive repair and service; construction; firefighters; health care; manufacturing; police and public safety; public employers; restaurant and food service; transportation and trucking; trash collection; wholesale and retail

Free CEUs! Register for the Medical & Health Symposium, March 8 – 9

Online registration is open for this year’s annual Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. It runs in conjunction with BWC’s Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. View brochure.

Two education opportunities available

The Provider Clinical Education track is an opportunity for health-care professionals to learn about the latest trends and evidence-based medicine. This track features leading state, national and international experts in addiction, behavioral health, chiropractic medicine, cultural diversity, orthopedic surgery, pharmacology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychology and total worker health.

BWC is requesting contact hours for select provider clinical educations sessions for the following licensed health care professionals:

  • Nurses;
  • Occupational and physical therapists;
  • Pharmacists;
  • Physicians (DC, DO, DPM and M.D.);
  • Physician assistants;
  • Psychologists;
  • Vocational rehabilitation (CCM, CDMS and CRC).

The Provider Staff Forum is new this year. It offers a full day (Friday, March 9 only) of education designed specifically for provider office staff related to key workers’ compensation policies and procedures. BWC recommends this portion of the symposium for office staff/administrators who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of workers’ compensation processes and workflow within a health-care system.

Register today!

  • Registration is free.
  • You need a unique email address to register.
  • Physicians and physician assistants must provide their National Provider Identifier and specialty.
  • Pharmacists must provide their Ohio license number and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy number.
  • Be prepared to select your educational track and each session.
    • Provider clinical education (13 sessions: March 8 – 9)
    • Provider staff forum (Five sessions: March 9)
  • Visit expoplanner.com/medical for more information and to register.
  • Registration is limited.
    • 700 attendees for the Provider Clinical Education track.
    • 125 attendees for the Provider Staff Forum track.

If you have questions, call BWC’s provider contact center at 1-800-644-6292, option 0-3-0, or email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us. For more information, go to bwc.expoplanner.com/medical.

Ohio employers receive $341,000 in workplace safety grants

Fourteen Ohio employers will share $341,020 in grants from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to purchase equipment designed to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.

BWC approved the Safety Intervention Grants in December. The recipient employers operate in eleven counties around the state, including:

  • Cuyahoga County
  • Lake County
  • Marion County
  • Mercer County
  • Miami County
  • Ottawa County
  • Sandusky County
  • Scioto County
  • Stark County
  • Van Wert County
  • Warren County

Click here for a listing of recipients by county, including descriptions of planned equipment purchases.

The Safety Intervention Grant program matches an employer’s investment 3-to-1 up to a maximum of $40,000. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies measure the effectiveness of employers’ safety interventions and establish best practices for accident and injury prevention.  Learn more about the Safety Intervention Grant Program at bwc.ohio.gov.

View stories about previous grant recipients on our YouTube channel.

Engaging millennials in the workplace through integrated safety and process improvement

By Diana J. Schwerha, PhD, guest blogger and Associate Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University

As the New Year begins it may be time to re-evaluate your safety training program and performance. You may examine last year’s performance metrics and develop a strategy to improve upon past accomplishments or challenges. While many companies use standard lagging indicators (e.g., injury rate) many more are now looking to leading indicators that may not only prevent injuries but also contribute to the economic strength of the company (e.g., number of employee suggestions that were acted upon and contributed to process improvement). One way to increase the number of leading indicators is to establish processes that engage the workforce and produce a consistent flow of ideas.

Engaging the workforce, however, is not always the easiest task.  When considering improvement one question that I have frequently been asked is how to engage an age-diverse workforce.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024 millennials (age 16-34) will make up 34% of the workforce while the 55+ age group will increase to nearly 22% of the workforce.1 We have been bombarded in the press about this bi-furcation about the differences between baby boomers and millennials. The differences between these age cohorts are often emphasized when considering ways to retain your employees. Although differences exist between these groups, what I would like to suggest in this blog is that there are a lot of similarities between the groups. If you can look to the similarities and engage based on what groups have in common, you are one step closer to having a safe, engaged, and sustainable workforce.

So, what are those similarities? The main one that I see is that no matter what their age, employees want to contribute to the success of the company, be engaged in the process and understand how often conflicting demands can be resolved in a successful way. One method to getting employees involved is by using a recently developed training program on integrating safety with process improvement. This program was developed by researchers at Ohio University with funding from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. It can be found at https://www.ohio.edu/engineering/safety-training/.

The purpose of this training is to engage a group of individuals who will look at safety challenges from three perspectives: safety, quality and productivity. The program has four basic components: identification, prioritization, improvement, and documentation. These processes can be completed through the four tools: Process Map, Prioritization, Modular Value Stream Safety Mapping, and Process training. The online training program provides for the practitioner videos, instructions, templates and examples of each of these tools.

The overall goal of the program is to develop solutions to safety challenges through the contribution of cross-functional teams. The teams should include employees from different areas as well as employees with different levels of expertise. By ensuring this diversity, you will automatically include both newer hires and more experienced personnel. This is essential to ensure that you obtain the engagement from your millennials as well as baby boomers.  Your goal is to create committee where you can investigate the challenge from multiple perspectives.

For example, several companies with whom I’ve worked have chosen to implement this program through their safety committee. They chose their employees so that different departments as well as different levels of experience are represented. Then, the committee should also have representatives from quality and productivity. Ideally, these individuals should have the authority to approve interventions at the site so that suggestions can be assured to be funded.

The first step in the program is to map the site and determine areas that are in need of improvement. These could be areas where you’ve had an injury or areas that are in a constant flux and have a lot of variability to them in terms of quality, safety or productivity. Once the areas are identified, then the group prioritizes them based on a red/yellow/green system that incorporates safety, productivity, and quality risks. Following that improvements to the individual areas are explored, processes worked out, analyses completed and improvements are implemented. The modular value stream safety mapping allows you to rank the before and after and also document the sustainability and communication plan. Finally, the program has a training document to allow you to record the new processes for future employees.

The training is simple and adaptable. It can be used as a stand-alone system or within your existing proprietary system or a lean or six sigma approach. My experience has shown that because the system greatly improves communication, barriers that may have existed can be broken down. Breaking down barriers, whether those are between different age groups or just between different constituencies within the company, will increase trust, create better solutions and foster sustainable improvements. It may not happen overnight, but through a thoughtful and systematic process where improvements are realized, companies can improve their safety performance and engage their age-diverse workforce.

1  Source: U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Labor force projections to 2024

BWC, State Fire Marshal outline safety resources available to Ohio’s firefighting community

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

In light of recent media attention to cancer risks and other on-the-job dangers faced by firefighters, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is partnering with the State Fire Marshal’s office to educate Ohio firefighters about safety resources available through their agencies.

“Firefighters face unique and life-threatening hazards as they protect the lives and property of their fellow Ohioans, and they deserve our best efforts to keep them safe on the job,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “We have committed a number of resources to reduce these dangers and improve the safety and health of Ohio firefighters.”

Added State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey: “Firefighters put their lives on the line on a daily basis. We want to ensure they’re equipped with the best resources to do their jobs safely.”

BWC resources include:

Fire department grants
BWC’s new Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program awards dollars to Ohio fire departments, both career and volunteer, to purchase safety gear and equipment that protect against carcinogens and other harmful elements encountered during a fire fight. BWC has awarded more than $1.2 million to 120 Ohio fire departments to date.

Items eligible for purchase include diesel exhaust systems, extractors/washing machines for turn-out gear, hoods with barrier protection and washable gloves. The exhaust systems and extractors are also available for purchase through BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant Program. Many smaller fire departments are eligible to purchase equipment without any matching funds.

Safety Grants
The Safety Intervention Grant Program assists Ohio employers purchasing equipment that will reduce employee illnesses and injury. Over the last three years, Ohio fire departments have received more than $9.7 million in funding for safety equipment, including hydraulic cots used for heavy patients and automated chest compression devices.

Public Employment Risk Reduction Program
BWC’s Public Employment Risk Reduction Program has been promoting safe and healthy working conditions for Ohio’s public employees for 25 years. The program had no jurisdiction over firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and corrections officers until the legislature expanded the program in BWC’s most recent budget. Effective Sept. 29, BWC has greater authority to help these employers identify unsafe and hazardous working conditions, as well as conduct workplace inspections to prevent accidents and injuries.

Safety, ergonomics and industrial hygiene consulting services
BWC’s safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics specialists visit workplaces to assist in the development of effective injury and illness prevention strategies.

Research services
The BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene library provides free research services on occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation and rehabilitation. Librarians have access to one the largest repositories of occupational safety and health information in the nation and provide accurate answers to questions about firefighter occupational safety and health.

Firefighter safety training
To ease costs to local governments, the State Fire Marshal’s office and Ohio Emergency Medical Services provide $500,000 to fund Firefighter I Training, a 120-hour certification class. BWC committed another $1 million for the training to help prevent accidents and improve preparedness and response times during emergencies.

Additionally, BWC funds research into firefighter injury and illness prevention through its Occupational Safety and Health Research Program. Six Ohio universities have received $3 million for 13 projects through the program, which includes more than $718,000 for research into firefighter safety.

Marshal Hussey said a number of training opportunities, grants and loans are available through his office in the Ohio Department of Commerce. While some grants directly fund safety equipment and training, others can free up dollars needed to invest in safety.

Fire Department Equipment Grant
This grant funds protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatuses, communications equipment and other miscellaneous equipment. Eligible fire departments must serve a population of less than 25,000. The application period typically runs from December to the end of January.

Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation (BUSTR) Revolving Loan
These zero-interest loans are available to any political subdivision, including Community Improvement Corporations, to begin, continue or complete the removal, assessment, or corrective action related to underground storage tanks.

Firefighter I Training Grant and Volunteer Firefighter I Training Grant
These grants fund the costs of Firefighter I or Firefighter I Transition certification courses. The application period begins July 1.

Fire Department Training Reimbursement Grant
Fire departments that provide primary fire protection to an area with a permanent population of 25,000 or less qualify for the grant. Reimbursement is available for specific fire training classes, including the cost of training manuals and student workbooks. The application period runs from mid-December to mid-January.

MARCS Grant
The MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) Grant is available to fire departments that serve a population of 25,000 or less. The money can be used to purchase systems, equipment, and/or services that are part of, integrated into, or otherwise interoperable with the MARCS operated by the State of Ohio. Up to $50,000 per department is available. The application period runs from October to mid-November.

Revolving Loan
The Small Government Fire Department Services Revolving Loan Program assists local governments in funding certain fire department expenses. A revolving loan can be used to expedite the purchase of major firefighting, rescue or EMS equipment. It can also be used for the construction or renovation of fire department buildings.

Rural Community Financial Assistance (RCFA)
This is a matching grant program to cover the cost of tuition and lodging at the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Ohio Fire Academy. Only firefighters from communities serving a population of less than 10,000 qualify. Multi-community projects may exceed 10,000, provided none of the communities in the project serve more than 10,000 people. The application period begins July 1.

Visit the State Fire Marshal’s grants page for more information.

The Columbus Dispatch published a five-day series in October about the cancer epidemic among firefighters. The news organization conducted two statewide surveys of firefighters and fire chiefs from across Ohio. Among the findings: One in six of the nearly 1,300 firefighters who responded said they had been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their careers. About 50 percent said they believed cancer was their biggest threat on the job.

Nearly 95 percent of the 360 fire chiefs surveyed said that cancer is the greatest occupational threat to their firefighters, but only about half provided cancer-prevention training or had rules in place to reduce the cancer threat.

The Dispatch series can be found online at Dispatch.com/unmasked.

Don’t trip for treats

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Fading daylight, uneven sidewalks and walkways, ill-fitting or restrictive costumes: What could possibly go wrong?

Trick-or-treating is fun for families, but it is also fraught with fall hazards.

Here are some tips from STEADY U Ohio on how to have a scary good time without the slipping and tripping that can lead to a frightening fall.

  • Eat a nutritious meal before heading out to trick-or-treating to make sure you have plenty of energy, and avoid blood sugar level spikes, which can cause dizziness.
  • Carry a flashlight and watch for uneven sidewalks, curbs, debris and other tripping hazards.
  • Choose costumes that fit well: If it’s too loose, it can cause trips; too tight, it can limit movement.
  • Avoid long gowns, capes and accessories that can snag on objects or wrap around legs and trip children or adults.
  • Use makeup instead of masks that limit peripheral vision.
  • Fabulous footwear might complete a costume, but sensible shoes will be less likely to cause a tumble.
  • If you decorate your yard or home for visitors, make sure walkways are free of cords and visitors can’t trip on decorations.
  • Battery-powered luminaries and mini-lights can provide extra lighting at foot level without spoiling spooky effects.
  • If you’re going for that “big scare,” make sure the area is level and clear of objects to prevent falls when people react.

STEADY U Ohio is a statewide collaborative falls prevention initiative, supported by Ohio government and state business partners to ensure that every county, every community and every Ohioan knows how they can prevent falls, one step at a time.

Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for more tips and resources to help you and your loved ones prevent falls.