Protecting Ohioans on National Ag Day and every day

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Today is the first day of spring! And, fittingly, it’s also National Ag Day in the U.S.

The Agriculture Council of America started National Ag Day 45 years ago to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives.

National Ag Day also encourages all of us to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced;
  • Value the vital role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy;
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

With 74,500 farms in 2016* and nearly 14 million acres of farmland in Ohio**, agriculture remains one of our state’s strongest industries. And all those farms equal thousands of workers in Ohio’s ag industry, workers that deserve a safe, healthy working environment.

We’re here to do our part by providing on-site consultation services to help farms and agricultural businesses to recognize hazards and take actions to prevent workplace incidents. We also offer training courses at locations throughout the state to make it easy for workers to attend.

Additionally, we have conducted outreach on grain bin safety and developed educational materials about the dangers associated with grain bins. Our library offers many resources on agricultural safety, including a variety of audiovisual materials for borrowing.

During the past few years, we’ve had a booth at the annual Farm Science Review, one of the premier agricultural trade and education shows in the nation.

Being at the event – hosted by OSU Extension – has given us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with farmers and others from Ohio agribusiness.

At BWC, we’re serious about protecting farmers and Ohio’s agricultural workforce. It’s only right that we recognize and protect those who provide life’s essentials to us on National Ag Day and every day.

*USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
**USDA, 2012 Census of Agriculture


Ohio Safety Congress & Expo for 2018: Another complete success

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

As part of our Special Investigations Department (SID) mission to effectively and proactively prevent losses to the workers’ compensation system and to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud, we recognize the importance of educating and informing our stakeholders about how they may join us to combat fraud.

That’s why we annually schedule and conduct dozens of fraud presentations to groups of internal and external stakeholders throughout the state.

On March 7 and 8, at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2018, Shawn Fox, a SID special agent in charge, facilitated a workers’ compensation fraud presentation and Josh Grappy, a forensic computer specialist with the SID digital forensics unit, conducted a session on commercial uses, regulations and best practices for drones.

This annual event was another complete success. To a packed house, we shared techniques used to combat workers’ compensation fraud and to investigate safety violations. In the photo above SID Special Agent in Charge Shawn Fox walks attendees of a BWC Safety Congress & Expo through the steps he and his staff take when investigating a fraud allegation.

SID employees consistently promote fraud prevention strategies to stakeholders by means of social media, articles in periodicals, and presentations, such as participation in the annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, safety councils, MCOs and community-based organizations. These efforts educate, inform and build understanding of the BWC’s overall mission “to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.”

Since July 1, 2017, SID has conducted 51 fraud presentations describing and demonstrating how we accomplish our mission. Our SID employees share examples of successful cases and furnish all attendees with the means to detect and report suspected fraud.

We welcome requests for fraud presentations from all interested organizations. To schedule a fraud presentation, simply e-mail your request to and we will promptly contact you to discuss your group’s event.

We hope you’ll contact us and look forward to meeting you soon!

For more details pertaining to our fraud prevention efforts, view our Annual Report here.

Graphic artist guilty of work comp fraud

Former Ohioan found working in Colorado

A former Ohioan injured on the job in 1991 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud March 5 after investigators found him working in Colorado while collecting injured workers’ benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

John W. Bezusko, 50, must pay $19,530 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation for the first-degree misdemeanor, according to his sentence March 5 in a Franklin County courtroom.

“We reviewed bank records, emails and other evidence showing Mr. Bezusko worked as a graphic designer for his home-based business while living in Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID).

Also last week, a judge ordered Eric Payne of Hamilton, Ohio, to pay BWC $4,065 in restitution and serve two years probation after Payne pleaded guilty March 6 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge also warned Payne that if he violates his probation, he must serve 11 months in prison.

SID investigators found Payne working as a building inspector and a temporary laborer for a mobile home park while collecting more than $8,000 from BWC in 2015.

In other news, SID secured two fraud convictions in February.

Charles Malone, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after he was discovered working for a heating and air conditioning company while simultaneously collecting benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Malone to 180 days in jail, suspended for five years of community control (probation), under the condition that he maintains employment and pays $6,879 in restitution.

Kyle E. Goodwin, of Westlake, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him operating his sports video business while collecting disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Goodwin to pay BWC $2,978 in restitution and serve 180 days in jail (suspended) and 12 months of community control.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit

OSC18 – The postgame wrap-up

Thanks for joining the team!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

At Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC18) last week, we made the most important addition to our safety team: You!

For three days, more than 8,000 employers, workers, safety and medical professionals found their winning safety and health game plan at OSC18 and our Medical and Health Symposium.

We were thrilled to see so many of you tweeting and sharing your #OSC18 experience on Twitter! Check out some of the highlights in our storified tweets and scroll back through our blog coverage from last week while you’re here on the site.

Remember, to visit the OSC18 website’s Attendee Service Center if you need to print course attendance certificates or access presentation materials from many of the classes.

Now let’s go for a repeat! We’ll hold #OSC19 March 6-8, 2019, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. We can’t wait to team up with you again next year!

The crowd arrives for registration and badge pick-up.

Record numbers fill the convention center.

BWC Administrator Sarah Morrison tips off OSC18. If you missed her opening remarks, which included a sneak peek of our safety campaign commercial, you can watch it on YouTube.

Attendees put the full-court press on the Expo Marketplace!

Innovative all-stars: We announced the 2018 Safety Innovations Award winners March 8. Navistar took first place!

Fan favorites: MPW Industrial Services took home second place and the People’s Choice award.

In third place, Terracon Consultants, Inc.

Ramco Electric Motors received the honorable mention award and $1,500. Congratulations to all!

Finding a way: Injured worker triumphs through tragedy

Brad Hurtig, a double amputee, inspires audience at BWC medical symposium

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

The workplace accident that took Brad Hurtig’s hands in 2002 could have taken so much more from the high school student-athlete — his place as a star linebacker on the football team, his hopes, dreams and career goals.

But Hurtig, who gave the final lecture Friday at the 2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, wouldn’t let that happen, thanks to a coach who wanted him back on the team and a water bottle on the practice field.

“He invited me to practice when I got out of the hospital,” Hurtig recalled to hundreds of health care providers gathered at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “It was in late July, super hot and muggy. There was a water bottle on the ground, and I asked my coach for a drink. Well, he paused for a moment, looked at the water bottle, then up at me and said something that would ultimately change my life: ‘If you’re thirsty enough, you’ll find a way.’”

Hurtig found a way, along with a new motto that propels him to this day as a motivational speaker and youth minister.

A three-sport jock, Hurtig had broken a school record for tackles as a middle linebacker his sophomore year. After his accident and a failed stint as a placekicker (“I was terrible”), he returned to his old position his senior year, broke more records (111 tackles) and made all-state honors in his division.

Now 33, the northwest Ohio resident travels the country talking to high schoolers, the media and others about perseverance through adversity. He calls his lecture, Find a Way: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.

BWC Administrator Sarah Morrison stands with motivational speaker Brad Hurtig before Hurtig’s lecture Friday afternoon at the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Speaking for about an hour to the symposium audience, Hurtig recalled the June day of his accident 16 years ago, shortly after finishing his sophomore year, and the journey that followed.

He was working in a friend’s family business, a metal shop, placing sheet metal in a 500-ton power press that stamped metal into automotive parts. One sheet was misaligned. He attempted to straighten it, but his friend at the control switch didn’t notice. The press came down, severing Hurtig’s right arm below the elbow and crushing his left hand.

“The first thing I remember wasn’t really the pain or even the physical sensation, it was hearing someone scream when they looked at me,” he said.

Hurtig spent 11 days in a Toledo hospital and endured multiple surgeries. In the weeks and months that followed, he worked closely with his medical team and BWC to adapt to his new life and make life adapt to him. BWC provided equipment so he could drive, open doors, turn the shower on and operate a computer. Key to his recovery were myoelectric prosthetic arms.

He removed his prosthetics and explained to the audience how they work. He spoke of the family, friends and health care providers who supported him throughout his ordeal, the empathy of doctors and others who seemed genuinely caring and dedicated to his recovery. “BWC was huge,” he said.

He also shared a couple of workplace safety tips:

  • Stop and think. Impulsive, snap decisions get us into trouble.
  • “If I just communicated with my friend, I would still have my hands.”

“The reality is we all have challenges in life, we all have setbacks, and I can tell you that how we handle those setbacks will in many ways define our lives,” he said. “Excuses will only get you so far. If you’re truly thirsty enough, you will find a way.”

For more on Hurtig, visit

Are exoskeletons the future of workplace injury prevention?

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

We’re capping off OSC18 with an all-day session and demonstration of the latest in workplace wearable technology: exoskeletons.

Delia Treaster, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor, organized the session just as the the technology is beginning to gain momentum as tool for preventing workplace injuries.

“The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort,” said Treaster in a recent blog.

Many questions remain but exoskeletons seem to have great potential for injury prevention.

One thing we know for sure is the devices are drawing a big crowd and a lot of interest at OSC this year.

Check out these pictures from this morning’s presentations:




Report: Ohio in poor health

‘We need to step up our game,’ chiropractor says

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

When it comes to health and wellness, Ohio is in pretty shabby shape, a Cleveland chiropractor told hundreds of health care providers Thursday afternoon at the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Dr. Otto Schmidt, referring to America’s Health Rankings for 2017 by the United Health Foundation, said Ohio ranks 39th in overall health and wellness compared to the rest of the country.

“I saw where Ohio is ranked, and it kind of took me back,” Schmidt told an audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “I find that a little disconcerting as a health care provider. We have to ask ourselves, can we do better?”

Schmidt pointed to several health indicators where Ohio ranks near the bottom: cancer deaths (40th), heart attacks (39th), smoking (45th) and drug deaths per 100,000 people (46th). But Ohio ranks highly in the number of primary care physicians (13th) and number of hospitals (5th).

“We need to step up our game,” Schmidt said.“In workers’ compensation, we need to focus not just on the trauma of the injury but on the wellness of the injured worker.”

That means looking at the total person and recognizing “red flags,” he said.These includes physical and behavioral barriers that complicate an injured worker’s recovery, co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and smoking, anxiety, poor attitude and other self-defeating behaviors.

He said getting injured workers back to work takes a team effort from all stakeholders involved,including physicians and other health care providers, injured workers and their support network, and even employers.

Schmidt, who also serves on BWC’s HealthCare Provider QualityAssurance Advisory Committee, noted two BWC programs that incorporate those elements, physician-driven models that stress coordinated care. They include the Enhanced Care Program, a pilot program focused on knee injuries, and the Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention rule, which offers coaching and counseling sessions to help patients overcome negative thinking, poor coping skills and other behavioral barriers to recovery.

BWC also is addressing worker health and wellness with a free program it launched Feb. 1. The agency’s Better You, Better Ohio! program offers health risk assessments, biometric screenings, personalized health plans, coaching and more to Ohioans who work for companies with 50 or fewer employees in certain high-risk job classifications, such as construction, manufacturing, agricultural, and others.

“We all have to be on the same page,” Schmidt stressed. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t go from 39th to the top 10. We just need to step up our game.”

The health symposium, which runs in conjunction with BWC’s Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, continues through Friday.