Ohio employers receive $341,000 in workplace safety grants

Fourteen Ohio employers will share $341,020 in grants from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to purchase equipment designed to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.

BWC approved the Safety Intervention Grants in December. The recipient employers operate in eleven counties around the state, including:

  • Cuyahoga County
  • Lake County
  • Marion County
  • Mercer County
  • Miami County
  • Ottawa County
  • Sandusky County
  • Scioto County
  • Stark County
  • Van Wert County
  • Warren County

Click here for a listing of recipients by county, including descriptions of planned equipment purchases.

The Safety Intervention Grant program matches an employer’s investment 3-to-1 up to a maximum of $40,000. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies measure the effectiveness of employers’ safety interventions and establish best practices for accident and injury prevention.  Learn more about the Safety Intervention Grant Program at bwc.ohio.gov.

View stories about previous grant recipients on our YouTube channel.

Engaging millennials in the workplace through integrated safety and process improvement

By Diana J. Schwerha, PhD, guest blogger and Associate Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University

As the New Year begins it may be time to re-evaluate your safety training program and performance. You may examine last year’s performance metrics and develop a strategy to improve upon past accomplishments or challenges. While many companies use standard lagging indicators (e.g., injury rate) many more are now looking to leading indicators that may not only prevent injuries but also contribute to the economic strength of the company (e.g., number of employee suggestions that were acted upon and contributed to process improvement). One way to increase the number of leading indicators is to establish processes that engage the workforce and produce a consistent flow of ideas.

Engaging the workforce, however, is not always the easiest task.  When considering improvement one question that I have frequently been asked is how to engage an age-diverse workforce.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024 millennials (age 16-34) will make up 34% of the workforce while the 55+ age group will increase to nearly 22% of the workforce.1 We have been bombarded in the press about this bi-furcation about the differences between baby boomers and millennials. The differences between these age cohorts are often emphasized when considering ways to retain your employees. Although differences exist between these groups, what I would like to suggest in this blog is that there are a lot of similarities between the groups. If you can look to the similarities and engage based on what groups have in common, you are one step closer to having a safe, engaged, and sustainable workforce.

So, what are those similarities? The main one that I see is that no matter what their age, employees want to contribute to the success of the company, be engaged in the process and understand how often conflicting demands can be resolved in a successful way. One method to getting employees involved is by using a recently developed training program on integrating safety with process improvement. This program was developed by researchers at Ohio University with funding from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. It can be found at https://www.ohio.edu/engineering/safety-training/.

The purpose of this training is to engage a group of individuals who will look at safety challenges from three perspectives: safety, quality and productivity. The program has four basic components: identification, prioritization, improvement, and documentation. These processes can be completed through the four tools: Process Map, Prioritization, Modular Value Stream Safety Mapping, and Process training. The online training program provides for the practitioner videos, instructions, templates and examples of each of these tools.

The overall goal of the program is to develop solutions to safety challenges through the contribution of cross-functional teams. The teams should include employees from different areas as well as employees with different levels of expertise. By ensuring this diversity, you will automatically include both newer hires and more experienced personnel. This is essential to ensure that you obtain the engagement from your millennials as well as baby boomers.  Your goal is to create committee where you can investigate the challenge from multiple perspectives.

For example, several companies with whom I’ve worked have chosen to implement this program through their safety committee. They chose their employees so that different departments as well as different levels of experience are represented. Then, the committee should also have representatives from quality and productivity. Ideally, these individuals should have the authority to approve interventions at the site so that suggestions can be assured to be funded.

The first step in the program is to map the site and determine areas that are in need of improvement. These could be areas where you’ve had an injury or areas that are in a constant flux and have a lot of variability to them in terms of quality, safety or productivity. Once the areas are identified, then the group prioritizes them based on a red/yellow/green system that incorporates safety, productivity, and quality risks. Following that improvements to the individual areas are explored, processes worked out, analyses completed and improvements are implemented. The modular value stream safety mapping allows you to rank the before and after and also document the sustainability and communication plan. Finally, the program has a training document to allow you to record the new processes for future employees.

The training is simple and adaptable. It can be used as a stand-alone system or within your existing proprietary system or a lean or six sigma approach. My experience has shown that because the system greatly improves communication, barriers that may have existed can be broken down. Breaking down barriers, whether those are between different age groups or just between different constituencies within the company, will increase trust, create better solutions and foster sustainable improvements. It may not happen overnight, but through a thoughtful and systematic process where improvements are realized, companies can improve their safety performance and engage their age-diverse workforce.

1  Source: U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Labor force projections to 2024

BWC to push wellness, workplace safety in 2018

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

The new year is here, and many of us are thinking about resolutions that include working out, eating healthier and getting in shape.

We have our own resolutions at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC): we resolve to help more employees get home safe and sound every day. That is why we’ll continue our focus on wellness and workplace safety in 2018.

Ohio employers and workers both benefit when injuries don’t occur. A stable, productive workforce saves employers money they can invest in their companies. Likewise, workplace injuries can place a physical and financial strain on workers and their families.

This is the impetus for our new wellness initiative coming in early 2018. An overwhelming amount of research shows us that a healthy lifestyle leads to wellness in virtually every facet of our lives, including the workplace. BWC’s new wellness program will offer Ohio workers in small businesses a variety of services. Details are being finalized, but the program will offer services such as health risk assessments, biometric screenings, personalized health plans and coaching, chronic disease management and more. This is geared to help workers live a healthy, balanced life – factors that can prevent injury, or recover more quickly if they are hurt on the job.

Safety will continue to take center stage in 2018. Safe workplaces have always been our goal at BWC. To increase the awareness of the importance of safety, we will introduce a public health and safety campaign focused on preventing slips, trips and falls, overexertions and motor vehicle accidents (all of which make up about 60 percent of our injured worker claims each year).

The holiday season is also a time to reflect, and I am pleased to highlight our significant accomplishments in 2017. These include:

  • Another $1 billion rebate that increased workers’ comp savings for Ohio employers to $6.3 billion since 2011.
  • A new grant program that helps fire departments purchase safety gear and equipment designed to protect firefighters from carcinogens and other harmful elements they encounter on the job.
  • More base rate reductions for Ohio employers. Average private rates are down 28.2%. Average public rates are down 29.6%.
  • Continuation of our enhanced care program, which gives medical providers greater latitude in treating knee injuries, including allowing them to take a holistic approach to care by treating comorbidities that can delay recovery.
  • Improvements to our nationally recognized pharmacy department. Through sensible controls and better tracking, we reduced the number of opioid-dependent injured workers by 54 percent to 3,714 by the end 2017.

Finally, among our most exciting news in 2017: a decline in workplace injury rates for the fourth consecutive year. Ohio’s rate for calendar year 2016 was 2.7 injuries per 100 workers, compared to the national average of 3.2. That half percent means Ohio has 20,369 more people returning home safe to their loved ones than if we were just performing at the national average.

Building a culture of safety across the state is at the heart of our work at BWC. Our efforts are paying off, and we are more committed than ever to the safety, health and economic well-being of our state and its citizens.

Top 5 posts of 2017

It’s been a busy year on the Ohio BWC blog!

In 119 posts, we covered topics ranging from safety during a solar eclipse to preparing for an active aggressor situation. In between were fraud updates and safety tips from our experts.

Thanks to all of our readers, and those who shared our links and left comments!

Here are the posts you read the most in 2017:

  1. Don’t look at the sun and other not-so-obvious tips!
  2. Foul! Bowling coach crosses the line, commits work comp fraud
  3. Don’t be shocked or surprised – use lockout/tagout
  4. Working hard in the yard? Remember these safety tips
  5. Are you prepared for an active aggressor incident?

We’re looking forward to another busy year of blogging in 2018.  For now, we wish you all a very Happy New Year!

This top 10 list could be a real lifesaver

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

The end of the year brings a barrage of top 10 lists – the top films, TV shows, albums, news stories and more. It seems every magazine, news organization and blog has them. So, we thought we’d get in on the action.

Admittedly, the top 10 we’re featuring may not have the pizzazz of many of the others you may see this month. But for employers and workers it’s important (potentially life-saving) info.

The list we’re highlighting is the – drum roll, please – top 10 most-cited safety violations of fiscal year 2017* from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here are the top 10.

  1. Fall Protection; General Requirements (1926.501) – 6,072
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 4,176
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 3,288
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) –  3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) –  2,877
  6. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 1,405

OSHA released the list in September at the National Safety Council’s (NSC’s) 2017 Safety Congress and Expo in Indianapolis, but we thought we’d provide a recap. The December issue of NSC’s Safety+Health magazine has an in-depth cover story about the list.

“The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said earlier this year. “When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.”

In an interview with Safety+Health magazine, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs said, “The Top 10 is a great place for the employer to start if they don’t know where to start. The list identifies some of the major hazards out there. Take that list and see how it may apply to your workplace.”

He added, “Important questions to ask are, ‘What’s happening with my training programs? Are they covering what they should?’ Hazard communication, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, powered industrial trucks – all of those require specific training programs. Look at your programs in these areas, because many of the deficiencies we find involve training.”

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene can provide this training at no additional cost to Ohio employers. It’s covered by the premiums they’ve already paid. Visit our Education Training & Outreach page for options we can provide. We can also help make your workplace safer with the consulting services we provide to Ohio’s public and private employers.

Now is as good a time as any to assess your workforce and make a list of where your organization may need safety training and consultation.

*Preliminary figures as of Sept. 5, 2017

Breathe easy: BWC can help tackle respirable silica in the workplace

By Jeffrey Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

Did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began enforcing the construction standard for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) last month?

Do you know what the standard includes and how to stay in compliance with it?

The standard establishes a new eight-hour time weighted average permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m3 for all covered industries. It also requires other employee protections, such as:

  • Performing exposure assessments;
  • Using exposure control methods and respiratory protection;
  • Offering medical surveillance;
  • Developing hazard communication information;
  • Keeping silica-related records.

BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene has a variety of resources to help Ohio employers understand and meet the requirements of the new standard. These resources are available at no charge as part of the loss-prevention services provided through Ohio workers’ compensation premiums. Services include:

  • On-site industrial hygiene consulting to determine airborne RCS levels and, if needed, assistance in developing a written exposure control plan. Request on-site consultation
  • Safety Intervention Grants to help purchase engineered dust-control solutions. Learn more
  • Training focused on awareness-level RCS hazards and respiratory protection. Learn more
  • Additional resources such as videos and the latest publications from the Division of Safety & Hygiene Library. Learn more

BWC’s industrial hygienists have years of experience in the field and conduct RCS sampling and analysis using the methods specified in the OSHA standard. Training courses focus on topics related to the standard (e.g., respiratory protection and respirator fit testing).

Our latest safety video provides an overview of respirable silica in the workplace, including where silica is found, requirements of the new OSHA standard and elements of a silica exposure control program.

Visit our website to request consulting services.