Safety is brewing in a growing Ohio industry

By Bernie Silkowski, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

Since 1912, Ohio’s workers’ compensation system has helped workers and employers cope with workplace injuries. But central to our mission is preventing those injuries from ever occurring in the first place.

Fewer accidents and injuries mean safe, healthy, skilled and productive employees.

While all jobs come with some element of risk, our job in BWC is to make sure risk is measured and mitigated wherever possible.

BWC does this through our Division of Safety and Hygiene, which is staffed by workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics professionals who help employers develop and maintain effective safety-management programs.

We keep a close eye on industry trends and aim to reach new and growing employers as quickly as possible before safety becomes a major issue.

We understand that while employers in emerging industries want to prioritize safety, they are still perfecting processes and learning important lessons as they grow. They are often budding entrepreneurs with a small staff and on a shoestring budget who want to keep their employees safe but may not know how.

This is true of many craft brewers. Most are newer operations and many were started by homebrewers operating a business for the first time. In fact, nationwide, one-third of all craft brewers have been in business less than three years.  In Ohio alone, there are nearly 300 craft breweries with 65 more known to be in the works!

Staff in these craft breweries wear multiple hats and hold a vast array of responsibilities. Many of these breweries simply can’t afford to employ a full-time safety specialist as do large regional and national breweries. Reaching these employers early will help build a culture of safety in the industry into the future.

Yesterday BWC joined OSHA, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, the Brewers Association, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (District Midwest) in creating the Ohio Craft Brewery Alliance to lend our respective expertise to help this rapidly expanding industry grow with safety in mind.

BWC will leverage our professional safety staff to help develop safety programs and connect brewers to free resources and services and BWC’s one-of-a-kind safety library.  These BWC consultants from our local loss prevention offices and the OSHA On-Site Consultation program will perform safety management consultations, conduct walk-thru inspections, identify hazards, and link brewers to specialized, on-site or online safety training.  As always, our assistance is at no cost to the employers.

For their part the brewer associations will openly share all information, resources, and best practices freely with all craft brewers nationwide including those who are not members of the associations.  All signatories agree to participate in forums and other opportunities to promote safety.

Ultimately, brewers who work toward a goal of identifying, correcting or mitigating hazards and fostering a proactive approach to safety can create a safer work environment. These measures may also help lower costs for workers’ compensation.

We’re excited to be a part of this alliance to help elevate safety in Ohio’s craft breweries.

This is the type of commitment we need to build a culture of safety in every Ohio workplace.

Special thanks go to Keith Bullock, OSHA On-Site Safety and Health Consultant, for coordinating the alliance with all parties. Keith and other BWC consultants are available to advise breweries and direct them to the necessary programs and resources. Breweries can call 1-800-282-1425 to request assistance.

Do you want to know Ohio’s best kept workplace safety secret?

By Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant, OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

Last month, I had the pleasure of teaching a class called The Best Kept Secret in Ohio at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.  My presentation let the audience in on this secret: BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program. Most of the almost 60 people in the room had never heard of us or what we do.

I began the session with a brief history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the consultation program, then explained who is eligible to receive our free and confidential services. Basically, all employers covered by OSHA regulations can request an On-Site consultation. The program gives priority to privately-owned smaller businesses, and those in high-hazard industries. Typically, a grant from OSHA funds 90 percent of the program while BWC covers the other 10 percent (this year it’s closer to an 86-14 split). This means there is never any charge to use our services.

Most of the questions focused on the relationship between consultation and enforcement. I believe most employers want to do the right thing and provide a safe workplace; sometimes they are simply unaware of hazards that exist in their businesses. Our consultants point out these hazards with the understanding that the employer will abate the serious ones.  Our services are confidential from OSHA, however, if an employer refuses to abate serious hazards, we can refer them for possible enforcement action. While an employer is actively working with OSHA On-Site Consultation, they have “visit in progress” status, which means OSHA cannot open a programmed enforcement inspection.

Additionally, businesses that have an exemplary safety and health program can qualify for the programmed inspection exemption for up to three years by becoming a SHARP employer. SHARP – Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program – companies have demonstrated excellence in all aspects of managing safety and health.

I ended the class by sharing information about how attendees can contact the OSHA On-Site Consultation program to ask questions or request a consultation. I also covered how recent OSHA standard revisions (e.g., walking and working surfaces or recordkeeping) could impact their workplaces. Developing a relationship with an On-Site consultant can make it easier to keep up with changes and make staying in compliance easier.

After the session, I had a good conversation with several people regarding work policies and practices that could be OSHA violations in their workplaces. My fellow consultants want to help your business too.

Avoiding an OSHA inspection

By Greg Collins, Industrial Safety Administrator for the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

Small employers in northeast Ohio now have the option to avoid an OSHA inspection after self-reporting injuries to OSHA under a new recordkeeping rule. This rule requires employers to report to OSHA any work-related fatalities within eight hours, and to report to OSHA all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations, and all losses of an eye within 24 hours.

Under a pilot program, the OSHA Area Office in Cleveland will offer these small employers the opportunity to work with Ohio’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program instead of undergoing an OSHA inspection. This approach to improving safety and health is known as Rapid Response Investigation, or RRI.

Depending upon the severity of the incident, employers who report to OSHA about injuries will receive a letter that asks them to:

  • Conduct an incident investigation,
  • Provide documentation of hazard abatement,
  • Document findings and corrective actions taken which should be posted in the workplace,
  • Provide a certificate of posting, and
  • Schedule a visit with BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program.

The employer must respond to OSHA within five days of receipt of the initial letter. Working with the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program is voluntary. If the employer chooses not to work with the consultation program, it may be inspected by OSHA.  However, if the employer does not provide an adequate response to the letter, it will be inspected by OSHA.

The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program will consider these requests for services as high priority requests. The goal for response time by the consultation program is 14 days or less.

The services offered by the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program will be exactly as they have always been. The only differences from our normal operating procedures are as follows:

  • We are making these requests for service high priority for receiving our services.
  • We are starting off with a limited service visit, focusing only on the incident(s) that caused the employer to report themselves to OSHA.
  • We are offering to expand the scope of the visit if desired by the customer.
  • We are going to help with incident investigations.

In addition to RRI requests for service, the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program may also respond to requests from employers where OSHA has received certain employee complaints.

This arrangement is a pilot plan, starting August 1st and going to September 30th. If it is successful, it may be expanded to the other three OSHA Area Offices in Ohio, or beyond.

For more information see Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation.