News and Analysis
On Dec. 22, as the lame duck session came to a close, the Ohio House of Representatives concurred with the Senate amendments to House Bill 308, which addresses the treatment of first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After eight years of working on this issue, the OMA and its allies were able to create a special fund outside of the Ohio BWC to help treat first responders who suffer from PTSD. As passed by the General Assembly, the bill requires the Police and Fire Pension Fund to provide a study on how to administer the fund. The OMA will sit on the board that evaluates these proposals.
The OMA has long advocated for a common-sense solution to ensure that Ohio’s first responders receive treatment for PTSD while protecting the fundamental tenants of the workers’ compensation system. HB 308 will provide this solution. Thanks to all OMA members who actively engaged on this issue over the years. 12/23/2020
While the federal government is overseeing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the states, it’s up to state leaders to determine which residents are first to receive the limited quantities of these vaccinations. To help guide the states’ vaccination priorities, the CDC this week suggested that “frontline essential workers” — including manufacturing workers — and people 75 and older be prioritized in the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations (the so-called Phase 1B group).
Earlier this week, Gov. Mike DeWine said it “will not be a secret” when Ohio finalizes its Phase 1B vaccination priorities, adding that the public and public will be notified.
OMA Connections Partner Fisher Phillips advises employers to be patient since the amount and delivery of doses available remain uncertain. However, the firm says it’s not too early for employers to start making plans on how to handle the vaccination process by following these five suggestions. 12/22/2020
OSHA has announced a new initiative designed to collect its citation penalties. According to a press release, the agency is implementing a series of three penalty payment letters to be sent seven, 30, and 60 days after an establishment fails to pay a penalty based on a final order. In addition, OSHA will contact establishments by phone 14 days after the payment comes due. If an establishment fails to make a civil monetary penalty payment, OSHA will place the establishment on a priority list for further inspection. 12/22/2020
After eight years of continuous legislative wrangling to protect the Ohio workers’ compensation system and prevent its expansion to cover mental/mental claims, there is hope of victory on the horizon.
On Thursday, Dec. 17, the Ohio Senate — in conjunction with the OMA and other business allies — introduced and passed Substitute House Bill 308. As introduced, the bill would have provided post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment, funded by Ohio employers via the workers’ compensation system, for first responders without any accompanying physical injury or illness. The substitute bill would move PTSD coverage from the Ohio BWC and create a new fund outside of the BWC system to pay these types of claims. Moreover, the bill would require the Police and Fire Pension Fund to provide a study on how to administer the fund.
This is a major victory for manufacturers and protects one of the fundamental principles of workers’ compensation in Ohio – a physical injury or illness must occur to receive benefits. The House has yet to act on the Senate’s changes, but is expected to meet again next week before Christmas. 12/18/2020
This week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that OSHA has updated its Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Program to target workplaces with the highest injury and illness rates for calendar years 2017-2019. The update took effect Dec. 14 and replaced the 2016 SST Program. In addition, OSHA said it will implement national and local emphasis programs to target high-risk hazards and industries.
OMA members should consider participating in the OMA’s Jan. 14 safety webinar. Presented by OMA Connections Partner Safex, this 60-minute event will examine OSHA emphasis programs currently in force in our region, how to handle employee complaints to OSHA, and how to prepare for an OSHA site inspection. Learn more. 12/17/2020
Since the start of the pandemic, OSHA has issued coronavirus-related citations to employers nationwide resulting in proposed penalties totaling $3,504,345. According to this news release, employers have been cited for failing to:
- Implement a written respiratory protection program;
- Provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and PPE;
- Report an injury, illness or fatality; and
- Record an injury or illness on OSHA forms.
Resources are available on the agency’s COVID-19 webpage to help employers comply with these standards.
The risk of spreading the coronavirus through ventilation systems is not well-known at this time, according to the CDC. However, in its updated ventilation guidance, the agency provides several steps employers can take to improve air quality and reduce the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace.
CDC suggestions include using fans to increase effectiveness of open windows; decreasing occupancy in areas where outdoor ventilation cannot be increased; and running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for two hours before and after the building is occupied. 12/15/2020
Some OMA members have asked how to get rapid on-site COVID-19 testing for their employees. According to medical experts, these types of tests are still difficult to come by and can be cost prohibitive. For employers seeking COVID-19 testing (on-site or off), here are some options:
- Check out the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Lab Capacity Database, which includes searches by region.
- Some OMA members are using Abbott’s rapid test for on-site results.
- The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center has joined Battelle in developing a rapid, highly sensitive test for COVID-19 that allows for faster turnaround time.
If your business is seeking workers’ compensation service under the OMA’s Group Retrospective Rating program for the 2021/22 policy year, the enrollment deadline is Jan. 22. (This deadline is for the program year beginning July 1; services commence Feb. 1 for new accounts and remain in force for renewed accounts.) If you have questions, email the OMA’s Brian Jackson or your OMA workers’ comp account manager. 12/15/2020
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has begun sending $5 billion in dividends to Ohio employers to provide relief during COVID-19. Employers should watch their mailboxes closely as checks will be mailed in several batches during the coming days. Here is more information on the latest round of dividend payments, as well as a complete listing of the amounts BWC is sending by county. 12/10/2020