Kudos to our Safety Council of the Year Awards winners!

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

All 83 Ohio safety councils do their part to keep workers and workplaces safe in their communities. We view them all as vital partners in making Ohio a safer and healthier place to work.

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’s Chief Medical and Health Officer John Annarino presented the Grand Award for first place to the Stark County Safety Council, sponsored by the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council, sponsored by the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, took home the second-place award.

In third place was the Salem Area Safety Council, a division of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

Taking home fourth place was the Sandusky County Safety Council, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County.

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

Congratulations to the 2017 Safety Council of the Year award recipients! And thanks to all the Ohio safety councils for partnering with us and our Division of Safety & Hygiene’s mission to maintain and grow a safe, healthy, competitive and productive workforce in Ohio.

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

Darke County Safety Council sheds light on workplace safety

Get an insider’s view of an Ohio safety council
By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

As many in the safety and health industry in Ohio know, BWC sponsors 82 safety councils across the state to provide a forum for accident prevention, workers’ compensation, and health and wellness information in local communities.

There are many unique characteristics to each safety council – and no two are alike.

dc-safety-council-logo-final-colorI’d like to tell you a little more about the Darke County Safety Council (DCSC), sponsored by the Darke County Chamber of Commerce in Greenville, Ohio.

Interestingly, but not surprising given the county’s location on the central western border with Indiana, it is the second-largest agricultural county in Ohio. Naturally, this leads this group to focus its attention on agri-business as well as traditional employer safety training needs.

The DCSC has a diverse membership of 67 businesses that include international manufacturing, agri-business, health care, trucking, financial institutions, school districts, public employers, insurance companies, consulting companies, construction, landscaping, EMS, and employment agencies. Such a variety of member companies participating can sometimes make program selection challenging.

The council holds meetings at noon on the fourth Thursday of each month in the Brick Room at the Brethren Retirement Community. The most popular and well-attended meeting last year was “Employee Use of Marijuana” presented by Attorney Amy C. Mitchell.  The meeting was held last October, preceding the November vote on Ballot Issue 3-Legalization of Marijuana in Ohio.

The DCSC credits its success to its committee chair running a timely meeting and the entire committee’s assistance in meeting-day responsibilities. Members of the steering committee intentionally do not sit together at meetings. They sit with different members to gain insight on their safety issues and offer resources or referrals to BWC.  The DCSC always invites the media and the safety council is frequently front-page news!

Safety council leadership and members also value the support of their BWC safety representative who provides a BWC ‘update’ at each meeting and maintains a running knowledge of hot topics which may be appropriate for future meetings. Because BWC is a large state agency, the DCSC also appreciates the direct connection to an employee to assist with ‘navigating’ the system.

At meetings, employers learn about ongoing discount programs like BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant. Employers have publicly acknowledged their appreciation for receiving the Safety Grant information through the safety council as reflected in the comments of David Dunaway, owner of Ramco Electric Motors, who said “Through membership in the Darke County Safety Council we became aware of a Safety Intervention Grant through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.  Ramco received a $15,300 grant as a direct result of this opportunity. We value our membership in the Darke County Safety Council!”

Participation in the DCSC creates opportunities for area employers to learn techniques for increasing safety in their workplace, better manage their workers’ compensation program, network with other area employers, and inform them how to access useful, money-saving workers’ compensation and risk-management information.

According to Sharon Deschambeau, President of the DCSC, the safety council program equips her organization with the ability to provide resources to chamber and community businesses that might not otherwise be available. The Chamber is consistently focused on engaging current safety council members and growing their safety council.

For more information about the Darke County Safety Council, visit their website.

Safety Council of the Year Awards: Stark County takes top award

By Michelle Gatchell, BWC Communications and
Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

On May 2, BWC held the annual Safety Council Leaders Conference in Columbus. Every safety council in the state was represented at the meeting, where ideas about program management, speakers, topics and how to reach more employers were shared.

Safety Council Mgr Mtg 2016

Managing a safety council is usually something added to a person’s regular job description and that is part of what makes those who serve in this role such an amazing group. They care about the employers and employees in their communities enough to go above and beyond in service to them.

BWC is the sponsor of the Ohio Safety Council Program, but it is the local sponsors, managers and steering committees that develop the monthly programs for their local businesses to benefit related to safety and wellness. To find out more about safety councils click here.

The ripple effect that safety councils create never stops. That ripple may someday save a life of one of your loved ones or friends. Important work they are doing when you think about it in terms of saving lives and ensuring employees can return home unharmed after a day’s work. BWC wants to thank those who manage and maintain safety councils and all those who are members. You are our ambassadors of safety and health in your community.

Last year brought Ohio two new safety councils, in Wood and Wyandot counties.

The first two safety councils were formed in 1931. They were the Greater Cleveland and Lorain County Safety Councils. The safety council program has benefitted Ohio workers for 85 years.

At the Safety Council Leaders Conference BWC presented the 2015 Safety Council of the Year awards. BWC judges selected eight councils from 24 finalists. There were four honorable mentions. Those recipients are:

The Safety Council of the Year fourth place honor goes to the West Central Ohio Safety Council.  (Pictured below: Deb Katzenmeyer, Craig Hohenbrink, Acting BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison and Amy Ricker.)

west central safety 2016

The third place award winner is Summit County Safety Council. (Pictured below: Bill Silver, Acting BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison and Sally Cox.)

Summit Co safety

The Safety Council of the Year second place award recipient is Ashtabula County Safety Council. (Pictured below: Andrew Kelner and Acting BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison.)

Ashtabula safety 2016

The number one safety council in the state for 2015, serving almost 300 members, is the Stark County Safety Council. (Pictured below: Michelle Francisco, Connie Cerny and Chris Zabel.)

Stark Co 2016 winner

Congratulations to all of these safety councils. You and the rest of Ohio’s safety councils are all to be commended for your excellent service to Ohio employers and workers.

If you’re not already a member of a safety council, we encourage you to look into one in your area. We list all the safety councils on our website here.

Happy New Year… Reflecting on the past… Focusing on the Future

By Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

AbeAltarawnehFor most, the end of a year and beginning of a new one serves for reflection on the past year and resolution for a better oncoming year. Last month (December) I had the privilege of presenting to the BWC Board of Directors on the Division of Safety and Hygiene (DSH) Operations and Activities for Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1st, 2014 to June 30th, 2015).

Needless to say, last year was very busy in terms of our continuing work to expand and initiate existing and new programs. With the BWC “Another Billion Back” initiative, the agency renewed its commitment to safety:

  • Launching the BWC Occupational Safety and Health Research Program;
  • Pledging $15 million each year in Safety Intervention Grants for FY2016 and FY2017;
  • Funding Fire Fighter I training for over 1,200 fire fighters;
  • Designing safety curricula to improve safety for younger workers in the skilled trades;
  • Expanding the Ohio Safety Innovations Competition;
  • Expanding the Safety Councils Program focus to include health and wellness.

19,000 employers served
All in all, close to 19,000 employers in Ohio utilized one or more of our services and programs during FY2015. To put this number in perspective, we worked with a little over 12,000 employers in FY2009.

Accounting for the value of prevention is an elusive undertaking. After all, how does one account for what hasn’t happened because of prevention? Here in Ohio, we have shown that directing resources into prevention does work, is worth doing, and we backed our words with actions to protect Ohio’s most valuable asset; its workforce.

Expansion of programs and services
Expanding our safety programs and services over the past few years has reflected on the number of injuries that register in our system, which went down by about 21 percent, while the reported payroll in our system has grown by about 12 percent during the same period. In 2012, we partnered with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) in Ohio. Since then, we and the BLS have reported SOII results for calendar years 2012-2014. SOII’s results also reflect our efforts in prevention with year after year decreases in injury severities and rates that are lower than the nation and Ohio’s neighboring states. As occupational safety and health practitioners we are elated by the fact that occupational injuries have been decreasing across the nation, and we are proud that the decreases in Ohio have surpassed those observed in the rest of the nation.

Last November, as the SOII results came out, Administrator Buehrer asked if I have an explanation of why the SOII results in Ohio are better than the rest of the nation and our neighboring states? I was at a loss for words at the time, because I really felt that I needed to pinpoint scientific reasons that lead to solid conclusions such as “Because we did this and this and this…, we ended up with this and this and this…” The Administrator knew very well the level of complexity involved in his question, and he understood my loss for solid answers. However, soon after, I realized the answer doesn’t require complex analyses of data and variables that cross time and geography. Rather, it rests in what we do for safety in Ohio with diligence and much pride, which most other states do not do.

From Safety Councils, to Safety Congress, to Safety Intervention Grants, to Training and Education Services, to Research, to partnerships with stakeholders, to on-site field consultations, we provide a unique, multi-level, participatory of safety programs and loss prevention services that are unparalleled throughout the nation. These offerings provide options for employers and their workers to pick and choose the most suitable for their operations and needs. Additionally, these multi-level options are accessible across the state throughout the year, making employers and workers participation easier at anytime.

Furthermore, BWC provides employers the option to participate in several rebate programs that have various safety program elements allowing these employers to improve their loss prevention efforts and consequently control their risks and can earn stackable rebates that reach up to 14% of their premiums. These programs include the Industry Specific Safety Program, the Drug-Free Safety Program, and the Safety Councils program.

Investing in the future
As we look to the future, we realize that our work is only beginning because we must continue to improve the quality and reach of our existing safety programs and services to live up to the expectations of our customers and meet the challenges of an ever changing world. To improve our effectiveness in reaching and working with more customers, we are working on equipping our field consultants with better mobile technology software and hardware. Through this effort, our consultants will spend much less time on non-value adding activities, which will be translated in their ability to spend more time working with their customers and attending to new ones. We also intend to launch a new fellowship program that will provide opportunities to university graduates to have formal and robust training in the professional fields of occupational safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics.

Jonas Salk once said “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”  I look forward to the opportunities 2016 will bring…

How Ohio’s safety councils embraced health and wellness

By Michelle Francisco, Ohio Safety Council Program Manager

Just over a year ago, BWC challenged Ohio’s 83 safety councils to incorporate health and wellness topics into their otherwise traditional subject matter scope of safety, accident prevention and risk management. How they responded, the interest it raised and the energy it ignited may surprise you.

Safety councils host monthly employer meetings in their local communities and are a trusted resource for high quality safety education and information. So, given BWC’s emphasis on health and wellness and the proven association between a person’s general health and how quickly they can return to work after an occupational injury, it made perfect sense to combine the two.

Safety councils quickly went into action to identify health and wellness topics of interest to their members, tap into local health and wellness resources and outline a plan for investing the $350,000 in statewide funding associated with the initiative.

Since that time, over 350 meetings, seminars and special events have featured health and wellness topics and have been attended by thousands of Ohio employers. Just a few of those topics included:

  • Wellness programs – Where to Start
  • Sleep Disorders and the Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
  • Nutrition: Choose Wisely – It Could Save Your Life
  • Eating Health for a Healthy Life
  • Dealing with Stress
  • Keys to Maximizing Your Energy
  • Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle
  • How to Have a Healthier Heart
  • Smoking Cessation

Beyond presenting health and wellness topics in their monthly meeting forum, many safety councils created unique wellness initiatives themselves. For example,

  • In Northwest Ohio, a six-seminar Health & Wellness Seminar Series was developed that included wellness at work consultations, screenings, assessments and take-away resources.
  • In Sandusky County, annual Health and Wellness Awards were presented to recognize employers who promoted and engaged employees in healthy options and health education.
  • The Grand Lake and Van Wert communities combined their resources to bring a nationally recognized wellness speaker to their region – Sara Martin Rauch – Director of Strategy & Planning for the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA).
  • In Portage County, as a result of a coalition among many local resources, a 24-page ‘Engaging Your Workforce in Wellness!’ publication was created to make a case for implementing health and wellness programs.
  • In Summit County, these engaged safety council attendees below were hearing a presentation on reducing stress from “America’s Nutrition Leader” Zonya Foco after visiting an on-site blood pressure station.

safety council pic

Choosing to live a healthier life can result in significant change. It’s not just about being better prepared to bounce back from an occupational injury. It can mean losing 11 pounds, as it did for one person giving up pop in a 30-Day ‘Water Challenge’ or several attendees participating in a skin cancer screening who were identified as having pre-cancerous spots who were advised to seek immediate treatment.

The safety council health and wellness initiative has raised awareness, improved the culture of health across the state and equipped people to fulfill their highest potential in work and life.