Ohio safety councils gave when others needed it most

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With Thanksgiving later this week, we’re officially entering the season of giving. However, for a group of Ohio safety councils and their members, the giving spirit arrived early this year.

In August and September, three powerful hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria) ravaged the U.S. mainland as well as several U.S. territories in the Caribbean. The storms left horrific destruction, flooding and loss of life in their wake.

People from all over the country stepped up to donate their time, money and expertise to help the victims of the storms. Several Ohio safety councils and their members were no exception.

On the same date in late August, two safety councils (the Cleveland Southwest and Miami County safety councils) contacted BWC Safety Council Program Manager Michelle Francisco about a statewide initiative to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief among all Ohio safety councils.

After receiving BWC’s approval, Cleveland Southwest Safety Council Administrator Kathy Kellums and Miami County Safety Council Program Director Jessica Stein sent a joint fundraising appeal to all 83 Ohio safety councils. “We felt this was a way to say Ohio cares,” said Kellums.

With fundraising already under way for Harvey relief, hurricanes Irma and Maria hit several Caribbean islands with a vengeance, with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking the brunt of the storms. In the aftermath of now three devastating storms, the fundraising focus shifted to a larger relief effort. The safety councils decided to donate any funds raised to the Cleveland Salvation Army’s hurricane relief fund.

One Cleveland Southwest Safety Council member, Quadax, Inc., held an employee charity drive, raising $1,694 in employee contributions, and another company from the same safety council donated $500. In the end, the Cleveland Southwest Safety Council, led the way with more than $4,000 in donations. Overall, more than a dozen safety councils and their members collected $8,770.

On Oct. 31, Kellums and Stein delivered the donations to the Cleveland Salvation Army for its relief work in the Caribbean. The safety councils’ donations made it possible for disaster workers to provide up to 15,000 meals each day to residents of St. John, Virgin Islands.

“As BWC’s safety council program manager, I’d like to give thanks to all of Ohio’s safety councils for making our state a safer place to live and work,” said Francisco. “And for going above and beyond when fellow citizens desperately need help.”

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.

Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Home may be sweet, but is it safe?

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

“If you want to be safe today, go to work.” That is a quote from Steve Casner’s book titled “Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds.” I recently finished the book and was surprised to learn the major sources of injuries, and the risks we should be aware of in our day-to-day activities.

At BWC, we have keen insight on occupational accidents and how to prevent them. We are fortunate to have our Division of Safety & Hygiene, which works tirelessly to educate employers on the importance of safety and what they can do to improve conditions in workplaces. And it has worked! Recently Ohio has outperformed the national trend in reducing workplace injuries. Employers and employees throughout the state have gotten the message that safety is important.

The book shows that although occupational safety has made great strides, something happens when we leave work; we forget all that we learned about being safe. We get distracted and take risks, which leads to a growing number of non-work-related injuries and deaths. Consider this: in 2014, just fewer than 3 percent of all unintentional injury fatalities happened at work. For comparison, a shocking 50 percent of these fatalities happened in our homes.

The statistics suggest our homes are dangerous places with disaster lurking around every corner. But how can our “home sweet home” be so full of peril? The book goes on to explain that our workplaces have instituted a culture of safety, training us on doing our jobs safely with rules and checklists. At home, we are pretty much on our own, and the data shows we do a pretty bad job at being safe.

To summarize many of the book’s statistics, I would say – BEWARE OF THE DIY PROJECT. I know many of us take on home improvement projects to save a buck or because we may actually enjoy working around the house. But many of the unintentional injuries happen because we really don’t know what we’re doing. How often do we use the right tool for the right job, and use it correctly? The book says when you take note of the reasons people visit the ER, you realize not many of us have learned how to use tools correctly. We also forgot that we are amateurs and do not put a plan in place for the inevitable errors we will make. When is the last time we put on a harness when we cleaned out the gutters or stood on a chair instead of using a ladder? All too often, these small lapses in judgment end in disaster.

The other issue is that we are all in such a darn hurry! Everyone is flying around trying to pack hundreds of activities into a 24-hour day. We speed in our cars, run through yellow lights, are constantly distracted by our cell phone, and always multi-tasking to get things done. The book clearly illustrates that multi-tasking is useless and dangerous because we can only really pay attention to one thing at a time. And if we realized the risks we take in our cars to save a minute or two, we would clearly understand that the amount of time saved is not worth it.

The same goes for walking. We all learned to look both ways when crossing at the crosswalk, but in 2015 a pedestrian was killed by a car every two hours. And 78 percent of those fatalities happened when people were crossing in a non-intersection. We quickly throw out the window everything we learned in Safety Town to save a minute or two of extra walking.

So what is the solution? How do we take what we know prevents workplace injuries and apply it in our everyday lives? A large part of it is being aware that the real risks to our lives are not murders, shark attacks or airplane crashes, but driving down the street and completing our household chores. It is taking a moment or two to think through how to mitigate risk in our lives and practicing it every day. If nothing else, it is putting our phone down when we’re driving and paying attention to the world around us.

Here at BWC, we are developing an educational campaign to generate awareness of safety behaviors that apply both at home and at work, specifically as it relates to the areas of slip, trips, falls, overexertion and driving. We want to educate all Ohioans on avoiding these types of injuries, and ultimately change behaviors to create a culture of safety that follows Ohioans from work to home and from home to work.

Related
Handout – Safe at Work, Safe at Home

Give the gift of safety!

Our handy holiday gift guide has lots of ideas

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer, BWC Communications Department

The holidays will be here before you know it! And if you’re like us, maybe you’re not quite done with your shopping. Well, we’ve got you covered with gift ideas to keep your adventurers, your do-it-yourselfers and your loved ones safe and healthy throughout the year.

This year, the experts in BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene who staff the Ohio Center for Occupational Safety & Health (OCOSH) have compiled this handy Safety & Health Gift Guide to help you give the gift that keeps on giving – safety and wellness.

The guide includes ideas for gifts to keep your friends and family safe at home and on the road. It also includes reminders about creating or reviewing plans in case of emergencies in the home.

Do you have weekend warriors at home? Check out the section dedicated to these handy folks for ideas ranging from proper footwear and hearing protection to task lighting and eye safety.

How about outdoor adventurers? From new harnesses and carabineers for rock climbers to gun safety classes for hunters, there are plenty of options to choose from.

The guide will also help you keep your kids safe with tips for buying the safest toys and products, from toddlers to teenagers.

Finally, it provides travel tips to keep you safe when travelling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.

From all of us at BWC, we wish you a happy and SAFE holiday season and new year!

A handy message for the flu season

By Sue Davis (“Safety Sue”), Director, BWC Employee Safety & Health Administration

hands-germs

In 1847, a Hungarian obstetrician by the name of Ignaz P. Semmelweiss showed that hand washing greatly reduced infections in newborns. Dr. Semmelweiss attempted to promote hand washing and cleanliness among his colleagues, who were so offended that they committed him to an insane asylum.

Today, it is a well-known fact that hand washing greatly reduces the spread of disease.

Yet studies show that only 67 percent of people practice any sort of hand hygiene. Researchers believe this number is low because most people have a vague idea that hand washing is important, but many don’t have a grasp on the facts.

Communicable diseases are serious business. At the very least, diseases – like a cold or the flu – impact your day-to-day life in a negative way. More serious diseases can be very dangerous to your health and to others.

Although the flu season lasts from October until May, the peak months are usually between December and March. In addition to the flu, varieties of other communicable diseases spread more easily in winter months.

As an employer, it’s important to do your part in preventing diseases from spreading in your workplace this flu season. In 2016, your employees won’t question your mental health for encouraging hand washing; in fact, December is National Hand Washing Month. So now is the time to remind your employees to wash their hands often, keep their workspaces clean and eat healthy. And if they are ill, encourage them to stay home.

Here are a few other facts to share with your employees:

  • Eighty percent of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.
  • Touch refers primarily to the touching of food, or the touching of one’s own mouth, eyes, and nose. It is not simply person-to-person contact.
  • Touching the face with contaminated hands spreads illnesses such as pneumonia, the common cold and the flu.
  • Hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent.
  • More than 50 percent of healthy persons have Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria causing staph infections) living in or on their nasal passages, throats, hair or skin.
  • Less than 75 percent of women and less than 50 percent of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
  • The recommended washing time is 15 seconds. The ideal washing time is 30 seconds.
  • Only 20 percent of people dry their hands after washing. Damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands.
  • Hand washing and hand hygiene initiatives greatly reduce the number of absences, sick leaves and lost productivity.

For more information:
http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
https://www.b4brands.com/blog/facts-hand-washing-hygiene/

“Fall back,” but do so safely

Time change can mess with our clocks, all of them

By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Consultant

It’s almost time for the end of Daylight Saving Time.  At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6, we return to Eastern Standard Time. We gain an extra hour as we “fall back,” but despite this advantage, this biannual ritual of changing our clocks can mess with our internal clock.

When we turn the clocks back one hour this weekend, it is as if we crossed one time zone westward. For some, it may take up to a week to become accustomed to waking and sleeping one hour later. You will notice there is much more light for your commute on Monday morning following the end of DST. Conversely, it will get darker an hour earlier in the evening, so there may be less daylight for your evening commute.

Research has shown that there are more sleep disruptions in the week following the changing of the clocks. Nighttime restlessness tends to increase, resulting in poorer quality sleep. Morning “larks” are more bothered by the autumn change, while night “owls” fare worse with the spring change.

Whether you’re a “lark” or “owl”, you should expect a few restless nights following the end of Daylight Saving Time and be prepared to make some adjustments. The upcoming “fall back” will give most of us a much-needed chance to catch up on sleep, so take full advantage of that extra hour of zzz’s.

While more light may make your morning commute easier, the opposite – less light – can occur for your evening commute. Because vision may be poorer, give yourself extra following distance on the road. Be alert for cyclists or pedestrians who may be harder to see in dimmer light.  Driving a little slower will give you more time to react to unexpected events.

As your body slowly adjusts to the new hours of waking and sleeping, you should be able to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. You’ll become accustomed to the new lighting levels for the morning and evening drives. That is, until next spring, when we again change our clocks and start the readjustment period all over again!