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. In this article, we examine some of the cost-saving programs the BWC offers.

Drug-Free Safety Program

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 if the employer satisfies all basic level requirements. A 7 percent rebate is offered if the employer meets both basic and advanced level requirements. Some of the 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. Newly added 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. Employers 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. Advanced level employers must submit a safety action plan within 60 days of the start of each program year.
  • Written Policy. Employers must provide a written policy outlining the details of the 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 its 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 its supervisors with two hours of initial DFSP 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 provide drug and alcohol testing on a pre employment basis for its 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. For advanced level programs, the employer must also provide 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, and 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, there must be arrangements made for a fallback substance abuse professional to respond to questions the manager is not able to answer. A DFSP start up 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. 

In conclusion, we all strive to have drug- and alcohol-free work environments. If state fund employers apply for a Bureau-approved drug-free safety program, they can receive premium rebates of between 4 and 7 percent annually. 

Transitional Work Bonus (TWB)

Transitional work plans enable employers to reduce workers’ compensation claim costs by providing light duty work to employees as they recover from their injuries. In the case of a self-insured employer, providing a light duty job avoids the payment of lost time benefits (temporary total disability) and in many cases, wage loss benefits. 

For employers who obtain workers’ compensation coverage through the state insurance fund, the Bureau also offers a back-end bonus of up to 10 percent of the employer’s pure premium, which is based upon the employer’s successful use of transitional work in eligible claims within the bonus period. Eligible claims are those in which the injured worker is capable of a return to work with restrictions placed on the job the worker held on the date of injury. Successful use of the transitional work plan requires a transitional work agreement signed by the employer and the injured worker. 

State fund employers must apply for the transitional work bonus annually. The application deadline is the last business day in April for transitional work bonus programs that run from July 1 to June 30. The Bureau also offers a January 1 to December 31 transitional work bonus program with an application deadline of the last business day in October. As part of the application, state fund employers must show that they have established a transitional work plan, which can be documented through the written plan itself, a copy of a human resource policy outlining the plan, a copy of the employer manual/handbook outlining the plan or a signed letter from a corporate officer confirming the existence of a transitional work plan. 

State fund employers must be in good standing with the BWC regarding past premium payments. Their workers’ compensation policy must be active with no cumulative lapses in coverage exceeding 40 days within the previous 12 months. 

Transitional Work Grants (TWG)

The Bureau offers a transitional work grant program to assist employers in developing a transitional work program designed to safely return injured employees to the workforce. There are strict eligibility requirements for employers to receive a transitional work grant. The grants are 3-to-1 matching grants for companies ranging from 11 to 200+ employees. Companies that employ 11 to 49 employees might be eligible for a grant of up to $2,900. Employers who have 50 to 199 employees might qualify for a grant of up to $5,200. Employers who employ 200+ employees might be eligible for a transitional work grant of up to $6,000. 

Employers must complete a TWG-1 application to apply for a transitional work grant. The Bureau will notify the employer via e-mail whether their application has been approved or denied. If approved, the next step is for the employer to hire a BWC-accredited transitional work developer to design a custom transitional return to work program. It is important to note that the Bureau only provides grant monies for plans and services provided by a BWC-accredited developer. 

The BWC-accredited plan developer will assist the employer in creating a customized program, advising the employer on creating policies and procedures and establishing relationships with health care providers who can respond to injured workers’ medical and rehabilitation. Establishing relationships with health care providers gives them a thorough understanding of the employer’s business operations, enabling them to provide appropriate assistance to injured workers. 

The plan developer will create individualized training on how to identify and develop work tasks to be performed by the injured employee. Most importantly, job analyses will be performed on the particular job classifications the employer selects to be part of the transitional work plan. The transitional work grant is implemented after the work plan has been finalized. The 3-to-1 matching grant involves the Bureau reimbursing the employer up to 75 percent of the total cost the employer paid to the transitional work plan developer for covered services. The maximum rate per service is $200 per hour for the transitional work developer’s labor and $200 per job analysis. 

A BWC disability management coordinator will review the transitional work plan and determine if it meets the Bureau’s guidelines for approval. All transitional work plans must be submitted to and approved by the Bureau prior to the employer receiving grant reimbursement. Several Bureau documents must be completed for grant reimbursement.