Suicide Prevention: Don’t be too tough to talk about it

By Mona Weiss, Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

If you’ve never experienced a late-night emergency phone call, I can tell you from my experience, over twenty years ago, it’s something one won’t soon forget. Sadly, we’ve all likely had at least one of “those kinds of calls.” Mine came from my mother, almost exactly 20 years ago today. The shaking in her voice came through on the crackling landline, “we’re at the hospital. It’s bad, Mona. Ryan has shot himself.”

Ryan was my 22-year-old nephew. I’d changed his diapers. Swung him on a swing. Watched him breathe life into dead engines when he was but 14. Ryan had gone on to become a star football player in high school and was closely watched by university recruiters. How could we have known then that Ryan’s glorious days of reliably making touchdowns were going to be some of his last? If only we’d had a crystal ball…

Fast forward to last fall, when the topic of suicide was brought up by Greg Burkhart, Director of Safety and Training for the Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio (AGCNWO) at a monthly safety meeting. I instantly sat up taller in my chair. Are we really going to talk about this? Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 20 years since Ryan’s death, it’s that it’s taboo to talk about this! Team Chair Burkhart said that suicide statistics in construction had been covered at their national conference, and that the AGCNWO was looking at forming a committee to develop suicide-related support and resources for the local construction community.  No voluntold necessary! I leaped right in!

The AGCNWO generously provided all resources, the team chair, and the forum within which our team was to work. They also reallocated time from their in-house marketing expert to develop a logo, website, content, print, and more to help spread the word. Our first mission was to lay out the basics. We faced a few challenges: 

  • Name the campaign in a way that doesn’t alienate the audience.
  • Identify and learn to target those who have the most influence on possible at-risk persons within the workforce (such as his or her supervisor).
  • Ensure we clarify that we are not a suicide prevention counseling service, but rather a collection of resources to assist those in need.
  • Most important how do we get the attention of the victim, a person who would generally like to avoid this topic? Through his or her supervisor? Maybe his or her family? Remember, it’s “taboo to talk about!” 

As we brainstormed, we found the suicide victim numbers staggering! We learned that an estimated 5,500 construction workers take their lives annually, and that construction is the second-highest industry for suicides. Over the course of our project development, we grew hungry to learn more, and to uncover the mysteries behind the causes of suicide. In response, the AGCNWO secured some of the top experts in suicide and mental health as team meeting presenters.

These efforts resulted in the 2 Tuff 2 Talk campaign. In addition to the website, several electronic billboards with related messaging have been posted in the Toledo area. Hard hat stickers and larger signs for posting on employee message boards and at worksites will be released soon.

While suicide is perhaps not a pleasant topic, it’s especially important at this time of higher stress and changed working conditions. If you are among those who have lost a loved one to suicide, or if you know someone who seems to be in a difficult situation, even if they don’t work in the construction industry, you may find the resources below helpful. Meanwhile, I want to thank the AGCNWO for their passionate commitment to assisting in suicide prevention in the construction industry, and for sponsoring our team!

If you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings call 1-800-720-9616 for confidential support from a behavioral health professional.

New facilities eligible for indoor air quality funding

**As of August 6, the deadline for the COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program has been extended to October 15, 2021. **

Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19, including the impact indoor air quality (IAQ) has on the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we’re so proud to offer the COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. The program started in December 2020 and has received over 700 applications so far.

Because of the success of the program and the positive feedback we’ve received, we’ve decided to expand the number of eligible facilities. Previously, the program was limited to nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult day centers. We’ll now include:

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

With the inclusion of these new facilities, we’ll be able to protect additional vulnerable Ohioans. If your facility falls under one of these categories, we encourage you to apply today. The program offers up to $15,000 in reimbursement to inspect heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, assess air quality needs, and make improvements through maintenance, increased filtration, portable air cleaners, and other interventions.

If you’ve made any improvements to your HVAC systems throughout the pandemic, we encourage you to apply. The program will reimburse costs incurred from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Applications are open until June 30, 2021.

Not an eligible facility?

If your facility doesn’t fall under one of these categories to qualify for funding, don’t worry, we have resources for you too. We know that maintaining safe and heathy IAQ is imperative to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so we’ve put together some resources your facility can use to learn more.

You can watch a recording of one of our IAQ webinars here:

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

Visit our website to apply now. You can also contact BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene or call 1-800-644-6292 with questions.

My experience in BWC’s Safety Leaders Fellowship Program

By Meleesha Hodge, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 2018, I struggled to figure out what career path was right for me. I had obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences but did not have much experience in that field. I knew to thrive in the job market I would need to develop skills and gain experience.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to work for BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) as part of the Safety Leaders Fellowship Program*. During my time as an Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow, I’ve had the pleasure of shadowing and learning from BWC safety consultants, ergonomists, and industrial hygienists on about 85 consultative safety visits.

Some visits were on-site at Ohio employers, and since March 2020, I have assisted with virtual consultations. During these visits I actively participated in the delivery of DSH programs, products, and services to employers. I progressed from helping with pre-visit planning and employer research to making field observations, answering employer questions, making recommendations, and writing post-visit reports and correspondence. Each consultant I shadowed had their own unique way of how they did their jobs and shared their expertise with me whenever they had the chance.

Training and education are important aspects of this program. I completed more than 23 educational readings, more than 15 in-class trainings, and about 18 online courses within the first year, all centered around safety and health topics. After learning more about safety topics, I worked with BWC’s Education and Training Services staff members to create and revamp online training courses. One course I was particularly involved with revising focuses on preventing cuts and lacerations. This course educates employers on this topic and ultimately can reduce the number of claims from these types of injuries.

Meleesha Hodge performs a slip meter test that measures the coefficient of friction to determine if a floor or walkway is safe for use.

DSH managers assigned different projects to me that pertained to fulfilling DSH’s aim of making Ohio workplaces safer and healthier for the employer and their employees. For example, for the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards, I served as a project lead and coordinated meetings, took meeting minutes, and participated in semifinalist site visits and scoring of the innovations. For another project to promote health awareness, I had the opportunity to create the Wellness Wednesday Tips featured on BWC’s social media pages that highlight current health issues in the U.S. A few of the topics I prepared tips for were childhood obesity, fall prevention, and breast cancer awareness.

In my second year, I expressed interest in helping with BWC’s health and wellness initiatives and my supervisor created a great development plan to get me more involved in that specific area. That evolved into me joining our department’s internal wellness team, where I assisted by creating health bulletins and developing health activities for our staff members. In addition, I worked on projects for BWC’s Better You, Better Ohio!® health and wellness program. I realized my passion for health and wellness and am now pursuing my master’s degree in public health with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences online through the University of Florida.

Working for BWC has helped me find my passion and gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to move forward in this ever-changing workforce. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to not only help save the lives of Ohio workers but to also discover a career path that would truly bring me joy!

*The Safety Leaders Fellowship Program provides recent college graduates in the fields of occupational safety and health, engineering, industrial hygiene, and/or physical/ natural sciences an opportunity to receive on-the-job training to build a professional career in the fields of occupational safety and health, ergonomics, industrial hygiene and risk management. Selected candidates are offered a two-year project/contractual position where they receive hands-on and classroom training along with mentoring and coaching by highly experienced professionals in all areas of occupational safety and health.

 

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.