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.

Big news! Your Safety Innovation could be worth $10,000

BWC increases prize amount for annual awards

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Have you thought about applying for our Safety Innovation Awards in years past but put it off or forgot to do it? We have at least 4,000 more reasons for you to not delay any further!

To encourage applications and reward innovation more than ever, we have raised the prize amounts for our 2020 Safety Innovation Awards. The top prize is now $10,000, up from $6,000! Second place receives $6,000, third place $4,000, and honorable mention receives $1,500.

Our Safety Innovation Awards celebrate creative solutions that improve the safety and health in Ohio workplaces. Examples of innovations include:

  • Technological advancements.
  • Creative use of existing equipment.
  • Unique processes and practices.
  • Development of new equipment.

If your organization has developed any of the above to reduce the workplace risks faced by Ohio workers, we want to hear from you. Don’t wait, you have only until Sept. 30 to apply.

Winners in past years include a Mercer County company that captured first place with a device it developed for loading hogs into a trailer with minimal stress to the hogs and potential for injury to workers. Last year, the Springfield company Navistar captured first place with a robotic system that minimized worker exposure to a particularly strenuous procedure involved in the tearing down and welding of truck cabs.

This year’s finalists will receive the previously-mentioned cash awards and statewide recognition at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 11-13, 2020. You can check out descriptions of all the 2019 finalists’ innovations here.

We hope the past finalists and their ideas will inspire you to apply for the 2020 awards. If you have any questions about the program, email bwcsafetyinnovations@bwc.state.oh.us or call 1-800-644-6292.

We look forward to seeing your innovations!

Mosquitos and spiders and snakes, oh my!

By Gabrielle Tharp, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

With summer in full swing, we’re more exposed to outdoor hazards, such as insects and snakes. As an outdoor worker, it is important you know the kinds of pests you may encounter during the workday. Below are tips for identifying these critters and keeping yourself safe.

Mosquitoes and Ticks

Mosquitoes are a concern because of infectious diseases they may carry. In Ohio, four mosquito-borne diseases are common, including:

  • Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
  • La Crosse virus.
  • Louis encephalitis virus.
  • West Nile virus.

You can reduce mosquito populations at your worksite by eliminating all sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, etc.). Clear debris and fill in ruts that could be collecting water.

Tick-borne diseases are a growing concern in Ohio. Species of ticks to watch out for include the Black Legged “Deer” Tick, the American Dog Tick, and the Lone Star Tick. To prevent tick bites, apply a tick repellent that is at least 25% DEET (diethyltoluamide) or use Permethrin to treat your clothing. Check out our previous blog post for more info about ticks.

To fight mosquito and tick bites, wear clothing that covers exposed skin to protect your hands, arms, legs, and neck. To prevent mosquito bites, use insect repellents with an EPA-registered active ingredient such as DEET. If also applying sunscreen, make sure to apply it before the insect repellent.

Bees and Wasps

To prevent bee and wasp stings, wear light-colored clothing, avoid perfumes, and avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries. Wear clean clothes and bathe daily because sweat may incite some bees. Remain calm and do not swat at the bee or wasp.

If you are stung, wash the site with soap and water. Remove the stinger using gauze to wipe over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers. Apply ice to reduce swelling and do not scratch the site of the sting. Those with extreme allergies to bee stings should carry an epinephrine pen with them to combat the reaction.

Spiders

There are two species of spiders in Ohio that are dangers to humans: The Black Widow and the Brown Recluse Spider.

The Black Widow is normally shiny black with a red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen. Its venom produces pain at the bite area which may spread to the chest, abdomen, or the entire body. The Recluse Spider is brown with a recognizable dark violin-shaped marking on its head. The venom from the Recluse Spider can cause a severe skin lesion by destroying skin tissue.

Snakes

In Ohio there are three venomous snakes: The Timber Rattlesnake, Massasauga Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Copperhead snake. There are many more non-venomous than venomous snakes in Ohio.

Non-venomous snakes normally have an oval head, round pupils, and only nostrils present. Venomous snakes have distinctly triangular heads, elliptical pupils, and extra heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils. Their tails end in a rattle except for the Eastern Copperhead.

Venomous snake bites result in immediate swelling, discoloration, and pain. Extreme symptoms that later develop can include slurred speech, convulsions, paralysis, and loss of consciousness. Transport snakebite victims to a hospital immediately. To prevent snakebites, you should:

  • Never try to handle any snake.
  • Avoid tall grass areas and piles of leaves.
  • Avoid climbing on rock or wood piles.
  • Wear boots and long pants, and leather gloves when handling brush and debris.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a Reptiles of Ohio Field Guide to help you identify the wide variety of snakes in our state.

Benefits of snakes and spiders

Although our first instinct is to step on or smash a spider, you may want to think twice. Spiders regularly capture and help control nuisance pests and even disease-carrying insects, like mosquitoes. Snakes can keep pests (e.g., rats and mice) in check. Non-venomous snakes often prey on poisonous snakes, which can lower our chances of encountering a more dangerous snake.

12 fireworks safety tips for a celebratory Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is an exciting time for friends and family to gather and celebrate America.

While most Independence Days are filled with fireworks, cookouts and parades, this holiday can also be one of the most dangerous.

On average, 280 people visit the emergency room every day around July 4th with fireworks-related injuries. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year. On average, fireworks cause 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires resulting in injury each year.

The National Safety Council strongly advises leaving fireworks to the professionals and staying away from all consumer fireworks. However, if you are planning to set off your own fireworks this Fourth of July, below are some essential tips to keep your friends and family safe:

  1. Make sure setting off your own fireworks is legal in your area before you buy or ignite any fireworks.
  2. Make sure you have a large open area in which to set off your fireworks that is free of tree branches or power lines. Never light fireworks indoors or near people or animals.
  3. When purchasing your fireworks, avoid ones that are packaged in brown paper – those are typically made for professional displays and should not be used by amateurs.
  4. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks; always ensure anyone under the age of 18 is accompanied by an adult when setting off fireworks.
  5. When lighting your fireworks, do not place any part of your body directly over the fireworks. Also, back up to a safe distance immediately upon lighting, and never light more than one firework at a time.
  6. If a firework has not been fully ignited, do not pick it up or try to re-light it.
  7. Never point or throw a firework at another person or animal.
  8. Be sure to keep a hose, bucket of water or fire extinguisher close by.
  9. Do not put fireworks in your pockets.
  10. Never shoot off fireworks from glass or metal containers.
  11. Once your fireworks have been ignited and set off, pour a bucket of water over the top before moving, handling or throwing the remains away.
  12. Remember that sparklers are also fireworks and should be handled carefully.

The above rules of thumb should be followed for any type of firework.

Celebrate responsibility this Fourth of July and follow the above safety tips when setting off any size firework.

An even better idea is to head to your local park with a blanket and some snacks and enjoy your area’s professional fireworks show!

Be Safe Ohio!

BWC honors top safety councils of 2018

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

Our efforts to protect Ohio’s workforce would not be the same without our partnership with each of the safety councils throughout the state. By offering training and other safety and health resources, they have a profound effect on the quality of life in their communities.

Each May, Ohio’s safety council sponsors and leaders meet to get the latest news, network and share best practices in safety council program management. At this annual event, we honor the highest achieving programs in the state with our Safety Council of the Year Awards.

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud was there to present the 2018 awards to all the winners.

First place went to the Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council sponsored by the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council serves more than 130 members and has a 90-percent attendance average. The council, the second-place award winner for 2017, invested all its award money by introducing a grant program allowing members to apply for grants for workplace safety initiatives. The council also awards a $500 scholarship for students pursuing a career in nursing. Additionally, it offered community-based education on the opioid epidemic.

Stark County Safety Council, sponsored by the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce, took home the second-place award.

In third place was the Summit County Safety Council.

Taking fourth place was the Ross County Safety Council sponsored by the Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce.

Five additional safety councils earned an honorable mention, including the:

Congratulations to the 2018 Safety Council of the Year award recipients! And thanks to all the Ohio safety councils for partnering with us to make Ohio’s workplaces safer and healthier.

Visit bwc.ohio.gov for more information about the Safety Council Program.

Looking out for aging workers

May is Older Americans Month

By Stephanie McCloud, Administrator/CEO, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

Americans are living longer, and they’re working longer too. Today, one in every five American workers is over 65, and in 2020, one in four American workers will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), we have 71 workers over the age of 65; 18 are over the age of 70. We truly appreciate our older workers and the years of service to our agency and the people of Ohio.

We recognize the value they bring to our agency, and the contributions of mature workers in general to the work force. They bring skills and knowledge to the workplace honed by decades of service and experience. They are dependable and productive. They have a strong work ethic. They mentor our younger workers.

At BWC, our core mission is to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses. Workplace safety is a critical component of that mission, especially when it comes to our more seasoned workers. They are more susceptible to injury because of age-related challenges – decreases in mobility and sensory functions, reduced strength and balance, and longer reaction times.

When a 25-year-old worker falls on the job, for instance, she might bruise a knee. For a 70-year-old worker, it’s potentially a broken hip and a long recovery.

Older workers helped build our great state, and we want to keep them active, healthy and engaged in their work. We’re a charter partner in the STEADY U Ohio initiative to curb the epidemic of slips, trips and falls among older Ohioans. (One in three older adults will fall this year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.) These are the leading causes of worker injury, and they most often strike workers 45 and older (like me!).

These incidents are costly. The total estimated cost of falls among Ohioans aged 65 and older (medical costs, work loss) is nearly $2 billion annually in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Most are preventable. At Steady U, workers and employers can find tips, tools and resources designed to reduce these incidents.

We urge all Ohioans to join us in creating a culture of safety across this state. Safe workplaces mean fewer, if any, injuries on the job, as well as steady production and lower costs for employers. And they mean more workers can go home healthy each day after their shift.

We are here to help. We have experts, grant dollars and other resources to make Ohio a safer place. To learn more, contact us at 1-800-644-6292 or visit our Division of Safety & Hygiene web page.

Learn fall protection and prevention! Attend a BWC stand-down event

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

In 2017, there were 971 construction fatalities nationwide; 366 of them resulted from falls from elevation.

Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) again lists fall protection in construction as its most frequently cited standard.

To raise awareness and reduce injuries and fatalities, OSHA promotes its annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls. The stand-down encourages employers across the nation to hold events in conjunction with the multi-day event, May 6-10 this year. As always, the stand-down encourages employers to pause during their workday for topic discussions, safety demonstrations, and trainings in hazard recognition and fall prevention.

We have scheduled four FREE training events open to the public during the week of the stand-down. We’ve listed information for each below.

Garfield Heights event

  • When: 8 a.m. to Noon May 7
  • Where: BWC’s Garfield Heights Service Office – 4800 E. 131st, Garfield Heights, OH 44131
  • Event details: Presentations by experts from T. Allen Incorporated, The Albert M. Higley Co., Werner Ladder, Honeywell and the Cleveland OSHA Area Office
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Garfield Heights event.

 Mansfield event

  • When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 7
  • Where: MHS Industrial Supply – 70 Sawyer Parkway, Mansfield, OH 44903
  • Event details: Presentation by experts from FallTech; co-hosted by MHS Industrial Supply
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Mansfield event.

 Pickerington event

  • When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 10
  • Where: BWC’s Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health – 13430 Yarmouth Drive, Pickerington, OH 43147
  • Event details: Presentations by experts from Guardian Fall Protection, LBJ Inc. and the Columbus OSHA Area Office
  • Register: Visit the BWC Learning Center and enter Stand-Down Event in the search field then enroll for the Pickerington event.

Youngstown event

  • When: 7:30 – 9 a.m. May 7
  • Where: Boak & Sons, Incorporated – 75 Victoria Road, Austintown, OH 44515
  • Event details: Presentation by experts from 3M and a drop demonstration truck; co-hosted by Boak & Sons, Incorporated
  • Register: Email David Costantino or call 330-301-5825; email David Loughner or call 216-538-9720

We may add more events in the coming weeks. Also, don’t forget the BWC Library offers an extensive collection of audiovisual materials related to fall hazards and fall prevention. Additionally, we offer year-round classes throughout Ohio to address fall protection requirements.

It’s not too late for your company or organization to plan a stand-down event. We’re here if you need help planning your activity. Just call 1-800-644-6292 for assistance.

Trench collapse survivor tells his story to save others

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

“It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe,” Eric Giguere told a rapt audience at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo last month. “It was like I was hit by a truck going 70 miles per hour.”

He was describing what it was like being buried alive under about 2,000 pounds of dirt in a trench that was six feet deep.

Giguere started the day, Oct. 4, 2002, looking forward to leaving for his honeymoon that afternoon; he ended the day on life support in the intensive care unit of an upstate New York hospital.

“I was 27 years old with a terrible attitude toward safety. I didn’t speak up about unsafe working conditions. I was OK with taking shortcuts,” he said. “That’s why I ended up buried in that trench.” But he wasn’t the only one taking shortcuts that day. His employer had Giguere and his colleagues working in a trench that was six feet deep without trench boxes and other safety measures.

“We got comfortable doing things the wrong way. For what? To cut corners. To save time,” he said.  Well, all it took was a split second to forever change my life and to put my co-workers in the horrible position of having to make a life-or-death decision to help save me.”

One of those co-workers used a backhoe to remove the top layer of dirt from the collapsed trench, knowing that if the bucket struck Giguere, it could kill him.

After 10 minutes of digging frantically by hand, his colleagues eventually uncovered his lifeless body. They began CPR even as he was partially buried. A life flight helicopter transported him to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.

His wife, who he had married just six days earlier, waited with family members as Giguere’s life hung in the balance.

Doctors told them even if he survived, he would likely be severely brain damaged. He would make a miraculous recovery, but it was accompanied by recurring nightmares, fear of dark, enclosed spaces and forgetfulness.

Cognitive and psychological therapy has helped him recover over time. These days, you’d never know from his outward appearance and demeanor that he suffered such a life-altering event. But it hasn’t been without hardship.

Ultimately, his marriage could not withstand the aftermath of the accident. “In some ways, the man that my wife had married less than a week before never came out of the bottom of that trench,” he said.

However, his second chance at life has given him the opportunity to influence the lives of others in a powerful way. He founded his own company, Safety Awareness Solutions, and he has shared his story with thousands of workers in the U.S. and internationally with the goal of raising safety awareness.

“The chance to speak with others regarding my accident gives my life a great sense of fulfillment,” he says. “If you learn something and you don’t share it with somebody, it does no good to learn it. I want to share my story, as an average guy, to others in hopes that maybe they’ll realize I’m just like this guy. He did the same things I have done. Maybe I better not do that, or I could end up just like him.”

BWC co-sponsoring Trenching Safety Day event April 3       

We’re doing our part to raise awareness about trenching safety as a co-sponsor for Trenching Safety Day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 in Warren, Ohio. The event features information about trenching requirements, soil mechanics, a demonstration of aluminum shoring equipment. Also speaking are two area directors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Cindy Hess, an Ohio mother whose son died in a trenching accident.

The cost to attend is $35 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Register today!

It’s severe weather season! Are you prepared?

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

You know the saying about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb? Well, there’s some truth to it.

With winter transitioning to spring, March can give Ohioans everything from blizzard conditions and extreme cold to flooding rains and tornadoes. That’s why the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) and Gov. Mike DeWine are recognizing this week – March 17-23 – as Severe Weather Awareness Week in our state.

During the week, the state of Ohio will participate in a statewide tornado drill and test its Emergency Alert System at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday, March 20. During this time, Ohio counties will sound and test their outdoor warning sirens. Schools, businesses and households should also take this opportunity to practice their tornado drills and emergency plans.

Tornadoes

Ohio saw 18 tornadoes in 2018. They were most common in April (which had six), but others occurred throughout the year. They’re most frequent in the spring and summer. So now is the time to update and assess your workplace safety/communications plans, replenish first-aid supplies and practice tornado drill with your workers.

Make sure everyone knows the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning when a tornado is imminent or occurring. The signs of a coming tornado include:

  • Dark, often greenish skies.
  • Large hail.
  • Dark, low-lying clouds.
  • Funnel-shaped clouds.
  • Loud roaring, like a freight train.

Floods

Floods are far more common than tornadoes in the Buckeye State. They can come slowly or quickly – flash floods can happen with almost no warning. Not evacuating from a flooded area can result in injury or death, so always follow instructions from authorities.

Whether you’re at work or off the clock, never walk or drive through flooded areas. Moving water six inches deep can knock down adults. If flood waters are a foot deep, they can sweep away vehicles. At two feet, they can move SUVs and pickup trucks. Flash flood waters are even more dangerous.

Prepare for floods by planning and practicing an evacuation route and having disaster supplies on hand. During a flood, you should fill bathtubs, sinks and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated, and move valuables to higher floors of your home. Follow the instructions of local authorities, and evacuate if possible.

Visit the OCSWA website to view current Ohio weather and to review severe weather safety and preparedness information. Whether you’re at home or work, always be prepared for Ohio’s unpredictable weather conditions.