BWC safety grants protect worker health, save employers time, money

NIOSH-BWC study published in industry journal

By Steve Naber, Ph.D., BWC Business Intelligence and Analytics Manager

For more than 10 years, our Division of Safety & Hygiene has enjoyed the benefits of being in a cooperative research program with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Through the program, we share claims with personal information removed and employer data with NIOSH and assist its researchers in various studies that use our data. Working together, we recently completed a study to evaluate the effectiveness of construction equipment Ohio employers purchased using our Safety Intervention Grant program from 2003 to 2016.

The findings

Though the study did not conduct a complete cost-benefit analysis, the data suggest our safety grants help improve worker safety and may also lead to cost savings for Ohio construction industry employers. In terms of cost savings, the study found:

  • An average productivity savings of $24,462 per grant.
  • The average savings due to less rework was $2,931 per grant.
  • The average savings due to reduced absenteeism was $859 per grant.

It also found equipment for cable pulling in electrical trades to be among the most effective. 

Other equipment scoring highly included concrete sawing equipment, skid steering attachments for concrete breaking, and boom lifts. The study’s results appear in the April edition of the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. You can read the article here.

The objective

The objective of the study was to apply a systematic method to identify the types of construction equipment that were more effective in improving the safety and health of workers. The study’s authors focused on the construction industry because “it is a high-risk industry, and construction employers need more information about effective solutions (interventions) to address safety and health.”

The methodology

The researchers evaluated 153 construction industry safety grants, totaling $6.5 million in equipment costs. The study placed the grants into 24 groups based on the function of the equipment purchased. The analysis emphasized equipment that was purchased in multiple grants and that had high scores for both risk reduction for work-related musculoskeletal disorders and quality of information contained in the safety grant reports.

We provided the data for the study, which included pre-grant and post-grant claims information and employer survey results regarding risk-factor abatement, equipment effectiveness, employee acceptance, and the effects on productivity. The research team developed an evaluation system that assigned scores to each grant based on the quality of the information employers provided addressing these factors. The team then tallied the component scores in these categories to get a total score for each grant that reflected the quality of the information and the equipment effectiveness. BWC researchers also contributed by reviewing and assisting in the development of the scoring system and in preparing the study’s manuscript.

Conclusion

This study supports our belief that employers will see long-term cost savings when they invest in workplace safety. More importantly, investing in safety protects the health and well-being of workers throughout our state. That’s why we’ve been offering these grants to Ohio employers for more than 15 years.  

NIOSH researchers contributing to the study and paper include Brian Lowe, James Albers, Marie Hayden, and Steve Wurzelbacher; BWC’s contributors are Mike Lampl and Steve Naber.

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.

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.

A look back at our most-popular posts of 2019

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With 2019 ticking down to its final moments, we wanted to look back at the year and our most popular blog posts from the past 12 months.

This year’s most-read posts include a story about a safety council meeting that literally saved a life, a feature on our safety services helping a local business achieve success, a wrap-up of the 2019 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, and much more.

In case you missed them, below is a listing of our top 10 blog posts from 2019.

  1. Violence against EMS workers a real threat
  2. This safety council meeting was a life-saver – literally
  3. Walking down grain is a deadly operation (Don’t do it)
  4. New online poster archive takes visitors on a safe trip through time
  5. One year in, Better You, Better Ohio! is improving workers health, well-being
  6. BWC safety grants save lives, time, and money
  7. Workplace fatalities are so last century
  8. OSC19 – It was great to connect with YOU!
  9. Safety Innovation Awards finalists show their ingenuity
  10. A split second’ nearly cost safety expert his life

As always, if you have ideas for blog topics, please let us know. Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

Have a happy and SAFE new year!

Follow these tips for safe holiday road trips

By Jessie Strait, BWC Communications Department College Intern

 Many of us travel for the holidays in that not-so-jolly holiday traffic, and more cars on the road means more accidents.

According to the National Safety Council, traveling by car during the holidays has the highest fatality rate of any other form of transportation. This is due to heavy traffic, distracted driving, alcohol impairment, and poor weather conditions.

To prevent accidents and injuries on the road, follow these safety tips from the National Safety Council:

  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your car that includes a first aid kit, a tool kit, cat litter, and nonperishable food items.
  • Avoid drowsy driving.
  • Plan for traffic and leave early.
  • Make sure everyone in the car wears their seatbelt.
  • Put away your cellphone. Do NOT text and drive!
  • Be a defensive driver.
  • Drive sober or have a designated driver.

Also, make sure you pay attention to the forecast. Don’t drive in a snowstorm if you can help it. If you are caught driving in white-out conditions, here are some tips from AAA to help you avoid a crash.

  • Drive slowly. Accelerate slowly and decelerate slowly.
  • Increase the distance you leave between cars, which should be about 8-10 seconds.
  • Use the threshold braking technique: Put your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Avoid coming to a full stop. Keep rolling until the light changes, if you can.
  • If you lose traction, steer in the same direction of the skid.

Read more tips on driving in poor weather conditions here.

Personal safety tips for work, home, and transit

At BWC we believe it’s vital for our employees to feel safe coming to and leaving work, but we know that can be a challenge with fewer daylight hours this time of year.

We urge all employees to be mindful of their surroundings, safety and security at all times. Our security team has put together these tips for our employees and would like to share so others can do the same.

  • On the street, be aware. Don’t stare at your phone or listen to loud music on headphones. Pay attention to your surroundings so you can react quickly if something goes wrong. Trust your instincts.
  • On public transit, tell the driver if someone seems suspicious. While you’re waiting for transit to arrive, stand with other people in a well-lit place. When you exit transit, pay attention to who’s leaving with you and seek help in the nearest building if you feel like someone’s following you.
  • In your vehicle, never leave your keys in the ignition, and park in well-lit areas. Always lock your vehicle and roll up your windows when you leave. Make sure nothing of value is visible in your parked vehicle.
  • At home, lock your doors with deadbolts when you come and go. Don’t leave spare keys outside, no matter how well you hide them. Don’t let strangers into your apartment hallways or lobbies, and always report suspicious people. When you’re on vacation, never leave a message on your voicemail or social media saying you’re not home.

Download these tips to remind your employees to stay safe. Please remember, if you see something or someone that looks odd or suspicious at work, report it to your manager or security office.

Make Halloween safe, not scary

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Halloween is an annual favorite for kids, right up there with Christmas. Unfortunately, it is also one of the deadliest.

Fading daylight, dark costumes, and excited kids darting into the street make children twice as likely to be struck by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.* Because excited trick-or-treaters often forget about safety, motorists must be extra careful.

Follow these Halloween driving safety tips.

  • Avoid distractions, so you can stay alert. Put your cell phone away and don’t reach for things until you’re safely stopped.
  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods and obey all traffic signs and signals. Drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra time to react to children who may dart into the street.
  • Scan your surroundings and be extra alert. Kids may not be paying attention to traffic and will cross the street mid-block or between parked cars and in dark costumes. At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.
  • Don’t pass other vehicles that have stopped in the roadway. They could be picking up or dropping off children, so wait several seconds before attempting to pass, and only if you see there are no people near the car.
  • Exit driveways and pull onto streets with extreme caution. Children have a harder time judging how a driver will react and are more likely to think they have the okay to go ahead.

Follow these tips when sending kids out trick-or-treating.

  • Don’t send young children out unsupervised. A responsible adult should accompany younger children on the neighborhood rounds.
  • Make them easier to see. Have children wear reflective tape, use glowsticks, or carry a flashlight.
  • Make safe choices. Remain on well-lit streets, always use the sidewalk, cross the street in crosswalks and intersections.
  • Have a plan. If your older children are going alone, plan and review a route acceptable to you. Agree on a time for them to be back home.

Visit the National Safety Council’s website for more Halloween safety tips. *Statistic provided by Safe Kids Worldwide.

Celebrate National Ergonomics Month with some new moves

By Delia Treaster, Ph.D., CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

Have you ever noticed your wrists hurt after hours of working at the computer or your back hurts after standing all day at work? Over time, these daily discomforts can add up, leading to undue physical stress, chronic pain and even injury.

That’s why practicing proper workplace ergonomics is important, and there’s no better time than now. October is National Ergonomics Month – a month the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has designated to recognize the relationship between humans and their work environment.

Ergonomics involves the practice of refining the design of products and workplaces to optimize them for humans.

Here are some tips, new moves and small changes to improve your workplace ergonomics.

Practice Neutral Posture
Neutral posture is the spine’s natural aligned position. It’s important to keep your spine in neutral position as much as possible to avoid pain and injury. A few helpful tips include:

  • Keeping the top of your computer monitor at or slightly below eye height, so your head is level and not tilted up or down.
  • Keeping your feet flat on the ground when you’re sitting in your chair.
  • Using lumbar support in chairs to prevent low back pain.

Get Up and Move
Prolonged sitting can lead to back and neck pain and even long-term health problems. It’s a good idea to get up and move every 30 minutes during the day. Set a reminder if you have to and get up and move your body for a few minutes every half hour. This could mean taking a brisk walk or just standing and stretching. It will also help boost your energy and improve circulation.

Stretch!
Get into the habit of stretching throughout the day. Take quick breaks to touch your toes, stretch your arms, and reach upwards over your head. You’d be surprised how much better a little stretching can make you feel throughout the day.

For more tips to stay safe and healthy in your work environment, visit BeSafeOhio.com.

We’ll see you at the NE Ohio Safety Expo!

By Dave Costantino, BWC Loss Prevention Supervisor

It’s hard to believe our NE Ohio Safety Expo is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year. It seems like just yesterday we were planning the first one!

With 40 sessions covering a wide variety of workplace safety topics and with an exciting lineup of exhibitors, this year’s event is bigger and better than ever.

We’ll cover everything from Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates and the opioid crisis to managing workers’ comp claims and workplace wellness programs.

This year’s event is Oct. 11 at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. Registration is now open. Because sessions fill up fast, I encourage you to register and pre-pay by Oct. 4.

You can view the complete list of educational sessions and access the registration form here. The cost is $30 and includes a light continental breakfast and box lunch.

Like last year, the expo will offer free and confidential biometric health screenings to eligible attendees as part of our Better You, Better Ohio!® program. Workers who work for small employers (150 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries* are eligible to participate in the program. You can check if you’re eligible to participate here.

I’m proud to lead the dedicated team that puts on the expo, an event that helps make Ohio workers and workplaces safer and healthier.

I hope to see you there!

*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

Ten ways to take action for National Preparedness Month

Whether natural or man-made, disaster can strike at any time. Which is why it’s so important to be prepared.

Next week marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month, so it’s a great time to check on your planning – at home and in the workplace. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this year’s theme is Prepared, Not Scared. Weekly themes cover everything from saving early for disaster costs to teaching children to be prepared.

From fires and floods to devastating tornadoes like those that touched down in Ohio earlier this year, there are simple steps you can take to be ready when disaster strikes. Below are some tips to help you and your workplace be more prepared and resilient.

  1. Sign up for local alerts and warnings, download apps, and check access for wireless emergency alerts.
  2. Create and practice emergency communication and action plans.
  3. Participate in a preparedness training or class.
  4. Learn lifesaving skills, such as CPR and first aid.
  5. Assemble or update emergency supplies, including flashlights, batteries, food, water, and medicine.
  6. Collect and safeguard critical documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.
  7. Document property and check your insurance policies for relevant hazards, such as flood, fire, and tornadoes.
  8. Consider the costs associated with disasters and save for emergencies.
  9. Make property improvements to reduce potential injury and property damage.
  10. Plan with neighbors to help each other and share resources.

Studies show that when employers urge workers to prepare for disasters, employees are 75% more likely to take preparedness actions.

Don’t wait until a disaster or emergency strikes. Take action now to protect yourself, your family and your workplace and be prepared for anything.