The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC or Bureau) provides several cost-saving programs for private and public employers who obtain workers’ compensation coverage through the state insurance fund. Eligible employers receive premium rebates for some programs and bonuses for others. All require annual applications, which have specific deadlines. This article provides a brief overview of some of these programs.

While the programs discussed apply to employers who pay into Ohio’s state insurance fund, similar safety and drug-free workplace programs exist throughout the country. Interested employers should contact their workers’ compensation insurance carrier or legal counsel for more information on cost-saving programs available to them.

Drug-Free Safety Program

In Ohio, the BWC offers a Drug-Free Safety Program (DFSP) to state-fund employers. The Bureau encourages safety in the workplace, and having a drug- and alcohol-free work environment is at the top of its list. Simply by meeting certain drug- and alcohol-free criteria, employers might be eligible for annual premium rebates. Many employers already have drug-free safety policies and might currently have in place programs that satisfy some or most of the Bureau’s criteria.

Private employer applications for this program are due by the last day of April, and the program year runs from July 1 through June 30. Eligibility for the program is based upon the employer’s good standing with the BWC. The employer must be current in its workers’ compensation premium payments and not have lapses in coverage in excess of 40 days (cumulative basis) within 12 months preceding the original application. The employer must also meet certain requirements throughout the program year.

The BWC provides a 4 percent premium rebate to employers who satisfy all basic level requirements and a 7 percent rebate to those who meet both basic and advanced-level requirements. DFSP requirements include:

  • Accident-analysis training. Within 30 days of the start of the program year, the employer must provide accident analysis training for all supervisors. New supervisors must receive such training within 60 days of becoming a supervisor. This requirement applies to both basic and advanced-level programs.
  • Workplace safety review. The employer must submit a safety management self-assessment to the BWC within 30 days of the start of the program year. This requirement applies to both basic and advanced-level programs.
  • Safety action plan. An employer participating at the advanced level must submit a safety action plan within 60 days of the start of each program year.
  • Written policy. The employer must provide a written policy outlining the details of its drug-free program within 90 days of the start of the initial program. This requirement applies to both basic and advanced-level programs.
  • Employee education. The employer must provide employees with one hour of initial training and one hour of refresher training annually. This requirement applies to both basic and advanced-level programs.
  • Supervisor training. The employer must provide supervisors with two hours of initial training within four months of initial enrollment and one hour of refresher training annually. This requirement applies to both basic and advanced-level programs.
  • Drug/alcohol testing. The employer must conduct drug and alcohol testing on a pre-employment basis for new hires. Furthermore, drug and alcohol testing must be performed when there is reasonable suspicion, following an accident or when there is a return to duty, and follow-up testing must be conducted after a positive test result. The above requirements apply to both basic and advanced-level programs. An employer participating at the advanced level must also perform random drug and alcohol testing for 15 percent of its employees.

The written policy should describe safety requirements, the annual employee education and supervisor training programs, alcohol and other drug testing procedures, and available employee assistance.

The employee education program should stress the dangers of substance use in the workplace. The program may be provided by professionals hired by the employer or by a company manager who attends a train-the-trainer course for employee education. The key is to present information on substance problems in the workplace to all employees and to not offer the same information every year. Should the employer elect to have a manager provide this education, arrangements must be made for a fallback substance abuse professional to respond to questions the manager is not able to answer. A DFSP startup grant may be available to employers to help offset the expense of the education program for its first two years of operation.

The supervisor training should focus on building skills in such areas as behavioral observation aimed at detecting when an employee may be in violation of the employer’s DFSP policy. Because the program is designed to require intervention before there is an injury or accident, the skill-building training should also cover documenting the behavior that suggests reasonable suspicion and justifies intervention, professionally confronting the employee about the behavior that suggests a violation before there is an injury, how to make referrals for testing, and how to make referrals for assistance including substance assessment.

As noted above, the drug and alcohol testing requirement specifies 100 percent pre-employment drug testing. The employer must use a certified laboratory and collection site for these drug screens, and a certified Medical Review Officer must interpret them.

All employers strive to have drug- and alcohol-free work environments. The benefits offered by the Bureau’s DFSP can help Ohio’s state-fund employers achieve both long-range safety and cost-saving goals.

Transitional Work Programs

The BWC also offers employers cost savings through its Transitional Work Grant Program and Transitional Work Bonus Program, which provide incentives to develop and use transitional work plans to help return injured workers to the job as soon as safely possible. The grant program provides funds that enable eligible employers to contract with a BWC-accredited transitional work developer to create a customized transitional work program. Bonus program participants with an approved transitional work plan may receive a back-end bonus for using the plan to return injured workers back to work.