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 a force for growth, workplace safety, opioid solutions in 2019

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

Some might view the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation as a purely reactive agency — we compensate injured workers and help them get back to work, health, and life after a workplace injury.

But as I reach my 1-year anniversary this week as BWC’s administrator and CEO, I’m struck at just how proactive we were in 2019, all to the benefit of working Ohioans, employers, and our economy.

Taking direction from Gov. Mike DeWine, our actions fostered business and job growth, created safer workplaces, and continued to battle the opioid and substance use epidemic devastating our state and nation.

I traveled across our state last year meeting business owners, local leaders, and other Ohioans both delighted and grateful for our efforts to keep workers’ compensation costs low and safety awareness high. Indeed, our list of accomplishments is impressive, and I never tire of talking about them!

Creating safe, healthy workplaces
We secured an unprecedented $40 million in our two-year budget for our Safety Grants program, allowing us to reach even more employers focused on workplace safety.

These grants, up to $40,000 per employer, provide private and public State Insurance Fund employers funding for training, wellness programs, and equipment intended to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses. These dollars purchase body armor for law enforcement, protect fire fighters from carcinogens, and improve the safety and security of the workers and students in our schools, among others.

To date this fiscal year, we have approved the following:

  • $8.2 million in School Safety and Security Grants for nearly 300 schools and school districts to purchase security doors and cameras, metal detectors, shatter proofing window film and the like.
  • $5 million in Safety Intervention Grants for manufacturers and other businesses.
  • $1.2 million in Ohio Law Enforcement Body Armor grants, a program administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
  • Nearly $725,000 for fire departments to protect firefighters from carcinogens and other toxins with special gear and industrial washing machines/extractors.
  • $247,000 to protect social workers and others who work with people with disabilities.
  • $82,000 in Workplace Wellness Grants to help employers establish wellness programs.

Our Safety Grants Program has proven so popular in the employer community that we have already reached our 2020 appropriation of $20 million!

Battling opioids and the substance use epidemic
Following Governor DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative, we continued our effort to mitigate the impact of the opioid and substance use epidemic on our workforce and broader community.

  • We removed Oxycontin from our formulary on June 1 and replaced it with painkillers that have stronger abuse-deterrent technology.
  • With Governor DeWine at our side, we launched our drug disposal program Nov. 1, providing injured workers with free disposal products that destroy leftover opioids so they won’t fall into the wrong hands. We know of no other workers’ comp system in the country doing this.
  • We secured $15 million over 2020-2021 for our Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program, which encourages employers to hire workers recovering from addiction. The program helps employers fill job openings and workers stay on a clean, successful path.
  • With encouragement from Governor DeWine, we have expanded this program this year from three counties (Montgomery, Ross, Scioto) to include Lawrence, Pike, Mahoning and Lorain counties. Clark, Greene and Madison counties are pending.

Improving Customer Service
At the core of everything we do each and every day is this question: How can we best serve our customers? That guiding principle led to several initiatives in 2019.

  • New tech protects our customers’ credit card information. We’re always looking for new ways to protect our customers’ information, which was the primary goal of a recent upgrade to our credit card payment system.

On June 12, a third-party vendor began managing our employers’ credit card information. Employers may notice the new automated process when they call our contact center to pay their premium with a credit card. Our representatives still handle the phone calls – they just activate the new, secure payment system when it’s time to collect credit card information. Kiosks at each of our service offices now also accommodate those who wish to pay in person with a credit card. The process to pay premiums online at www.bwc.ohio.gov remains the same.

  • Improving stakeholder correspondence. A largescale project is underway to review and rewrite hundreds of pieces of correspondence with the goal of simplifying and humanizing our communications, providing a better experience for everyone who interacts with our agency.
  • Safety messaging. BWC created a webpage to serve as an archive for our safety bulletins: https://info.bwc.ohio.gov/wps/portal/bwc/site/safety/bwc-library/safety-bulletins/. These bulletins are meant to provide safety tips and resources about urgent safety topics affecting Ohio’s workers.

Customer feedback
Whew! That is some list of accomplishments! But when it comes to our good work, you don’t have to take my word alone for it.

Watch these YouTube videos of business leaders talking about BWC as a true partner.

Watch this news coverage of the day we launched our Opioid Disposal Bag initiative and read the editorial by the Toledo Blade.

Moving forward
All of this would not have been possible without the support of so many, including Gov. DeWine, our BWC board, Ohio lawmakers, and the employers and workers in this state who put a premium on workplace safety.

I also owe it to the nearly 1,800 BWC employees around Ohio who are dedicated to making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I am honored to work with them. Their work over the last year showed me that we are truly a people-focused agency determined to provide the best service possible to our customers — Ohio’s employer community and workforce.

I am confident 2019 is just the baseline for an even better 2020. Stay tuned.

Go beyond resolutions with Better You, Better Ohio!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Now that we’re nearly a month into 2019, we’re curious how people are doing on their New Year’s resolutions.

Some folks may be following it to varying degrees, some may have abandoned theirs (no judgment here) and some may not have come up with theirs (hey, it isn’t like procrastination is illegal).

No matter which of these groups you fall in, our Better You, Better Ohio!™ health and wellness program for Ohio’s workforce may be an option for you. If you’re eligible, you’ll have access to:

  • Free health assessment and biometric screening.
  • Disease management and health coaching.
  • Monetary incentives for participating and more!

More than 5,000 people have already taken advantage of the program! Want to see if you’re eligible? Visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage to learn more about eligibility requirements and request to enroll.

Even if you’re not eligible to apply, ActiveHealth Management – our partner in offering the Better You, Better Ohio! program – has many free health and wellness resources. This includes items like a monthly newsletter and regularly scheduled webinars covering a variety of health and wellness topics.

If you’re already passionate about health and wellness, you could become a wellness champion in your workplace. We’ve also partnered with ActiveHealth to create a Wellness Champion Guide to assist in making your workplace healthier.

To bring this full circle, resolutions can be a way start down a path to health and wellness. Better You, Better Ohio! can help you make health and wellness a permanent mindset. Have questions about the program? Send an email to BWCBetterYouBetterOhio@bwc.state.oh.us.

One year in, Better You, Better Ohio!™ is improving workers’ health, well-being

By Kristen Dickerson, Ph.D., BWC Health and Wellness Manager

Great news from the Better You, Better Ohio!™ program office! More people are now eligible to get paid to get healthy.

We expanded the program to include all injured workers regardless of comorbidity status and any employer with less than 150 employees. This expansion means more Ohio workers can participate in the program and improve their health. As of today, there are 4,220 Ohio workers enrolled in the program. However, by the time you read this, that number will have grown.

This expansion has also allowed us to schedule on-site biometric screening events at employer locations, as we require at least 30 participants to schedule an on-site event. I’m pleased to report we visited nine employers and provided 442 screenings to employees of Ohio’s small businesses in 2018. This all took place the last two days of November and December!

We already have 22 on-site screening events scheduled for the 2019 program year, with more and more employers finding out about the program. Ohio employers clearly value their workers and understand that keeping them healthy is important to the growth of business.

That’s smart. Current research* shows the importance of employers considering their workers’ base health to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. And that’s our goal with this one-of-a-kind program: to support the Total Worker Health concept. Anything an employer can do to support a healthy workforce benefits both employees and the company.

On-site screenings going well

So far, the on-site screening events have gone smoothly for employers and their employees. BWC partners with ActiveHealth Management to handle the enrollment, registration and scheduling for the employer. Employers only need to supply a little information and select a time and date for their on-site event. We handle setting up and running the screening, only taking employees from their workstations for 10-15 minutes. Feedback from employers has been positive. One employer stated, “This was a great opportunity with little effort on our part. Programs like this make it easy to show employees how much we care about them.”

Our partnership with ActiveHealth also allows us to offer the Better You, Better Ohio! portal, where participants can track their rewards and health from year to year. It also offers health information, allowing every employee to tailor the program to their needs.

Success stories abound

ActiveHealth has reported many Better You, Better Ohio! successes. We have already heard stories about:

  • Participant weight loss.
  • Improvements in physical activity.
  • Improvements in heart health.
  • And participants sharing information with their families.

We would love to see more people participating and getting healthy! Join us by helping to get the word out to more workers and employers who could benefit from the program. It’s free and the benefits are priceless.

We value your overall well-being and encourage you to remember your health is the most important thing you have. If you are interested in the program, visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage, or visit the Better You, Better Ohio! portal to sign up today!

*The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Safety Month: Worker wellness and workplace safety – a dynamic duo

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Abbott and Costello, peanut butter and jelly, R2-D2 and C-3PO. Some people, foods and droids are just better together. The same goes for employee wellness and workplace safety.

The National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute recently released a report stating workplaces should expand beyond initiatives such as smoking cessation and weight loss to include health and safety issues such as fitness, nutrition, workplace fatigue, overtime management and job security.

This same approach is the foundation for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) Total Worker Health® Program. As a Total Worker Health Affiliate, we work with NIOSH to foster and reinforce an integrated approach to protecting and promoting worker well-being. We’re also committed to improving the health and wellness of Ohio workers with programs such as our recently launched Better You, Better Ohio!™ program and our workplace wellness grants.

Our Better You, Better Ohio! program provides health and wellness resources and services to workers who work for small employers (50 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries. Eligible employers and workers can sign up at no cost and through a simple, paperless process. Workers can pursue a healthier lifestyle through:

  • Free health assessments and biometric screenings to better understand their health and well-being.
  • A member engagement website that allows them to develop health plans and track their progress to achieve their health goals.
  • Health and wellness awareness, education and training.
  • Digital coaching to help them on their journey to better health.

Meanwhile, Ohio employers can reap the benefits of having a healthy workforce. Healthy employees are less prone to injury. And, when they are injured, their ability to recover is enhanced greatly.

While we’re working for Ohioans, the National Safety Council (NSC) is promoting wellness as this week’s National Safety Month theme. Visit the NSC website for materials like this wellness tip sheet.

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.

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.

A Wellness Story

By Carol Morrison, Manager of Outreach Programs and Services

Hello, I’m Carol Morrison and I run BWC’s Workplace Wellness Grant Program (WWGP). My own experience trying to lead a healthier lifestyle through workplace wellness activities prepared me to participate on a team to develop the WWGP.

Here is some of what I experienced in my workplace wellness journey.  BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene relocated from the William Green Building in downtown
Columbus, Ohio to Pickerington, Ohio in the summer of 1995.  I knew that I would miss the downtown location on many levels, with the exception of the traffic and the parking.  For me, the downtown location provided an abundance of restaurant choices all within walking distance, which gave me ample opportunity to not only get out from behind my desk, but to get my 10,000 steps in.

ocosh (2)

Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health (OCOSH) in Pickerington

Fast forward a few years at the Pickerington facility. Unfortunately, only a handful of restaurant choices are within safe walking distance.  So instead of having an end goal of getting my steps in by walking to restaurants, the end goal became just to walk so we would walk the  neighborhoods surrounding the facility.  Several of my colleagues decided to map out the steps and miles in the neighborhoods.

ocosh map 2The next wellness activity I was introduced to was yoga. We were very fortunate to have a certified yoga instructor on staff who offered 30-45 minute yoga sessions during our lunch.  This type of activity helped me relieve stress from the day and continue on rejuvenated.

Over the years we found that friendly competitions in walking and things like WII bowling got people up and moving. This not only promoted interest in wellness activities but built camaraderie among different departments.

For me, the common thread among all of the above activities was that I felt I was doing something good for myself. But that was not enough.  I was not purposely addressing health risks identified through completing a biometric screening, nor was I attempting to modify behaviors as a result of a health risk appraisal, which constitutes a comprehensive wellness program.

Eventually the state initiated a wellness program. For the last 5 years I have participated in our “Take Charge, Live Well” workplace wellness program, participating not only in activities but also completing the yearly health risk appraisal and biometric screening.  This has taught me that the screening, which includes measurement of physical characteristics like height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and a blood draw that tells you your cholesterol and sugar levels is necessary to choose wellness activities. Same holds true with the health risk appraisal, which assesses behaviors that impact your health. All this had changed the way I live my life. I joined a gym, I eat healthier, and I still count my steps.

My wellness journey let me see the overall impact wellness activities have on employees, and helped me be able to join a team to create and run BWC’s WWGP. The program gives the gift of wellness to employees across the state whose employers realize the benefits of a wellness program to their employees and their business.

For more information on the grant program, click here.    https://www.bwc.ohio.gov/employer/programs/safety/WellnessGrants.asp

If you are an employee, and your employer offers a wellness program, my question for you is are you participating? Are you fully engaged in the program?  Or are you doing enough just to feel good?

If you are an employer, are you offering a Workplace Wellness program for your employees?  If not, why not?