Have you planned your Stand-Down to Prevent Falls event yet?

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Quick question: Do you know the most frequently cited violation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? Don’t peek at the link. The answer is lack of proper fall protection.

Injuries from falls have plagued workplaces of all types for centuries, and they remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry. The most unfortunate part is many of these injuries and fatalities could have been prevented with proper equipment, training and awareness.

To raise the level of awareness, OSHA promotes an annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls, and encourages employers across the nation to hold events in conjunction with the multi-day event. This year’s stand-down dates are May 8-12. As always, the stand-down encourages employers to pause during their workday for topic discussions, safety demonstrations, and trainings in hazard recognition and fall prevention.

It’s not too late for your company or organization to plan a stand-down event. We’re here if you need help planning your activity. Just call 1-800-644-6292 for assistance.

We’re also promoting stand-down events in two locations – one in Pickerington at the Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health (OCOSH); the other in Austintown. More may be added in the coming weeks. To see other events in Ohio and across the nation, visit the OSHA’s Stand-Down events page.

Honeywell Safety Products will provide the free training at the May 12 event at OCOSH. It will feature a fall protection trailer demonstration and classroom instruction. Learn more here.

The May 10 Austintown event (hosted by BOAK and Sons, Inc.) starts at 7:30 a.m. For more information, contact BWC’s David Costantino at 330-301-5825 or via email at David.C.12@bwc.state.oh.us.

Finally, don’t forget the BWC Library also offers an extensive collection of audiovisual materials related to fall hazards and fall prevention.

Let’s all take a stand-down to prevent falls in Ohio!

For more information
OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls webpage
CPWR’s Stop Construction Falls webpage

Do you want to know Ohio’s best kept workplace safety secret?

By Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant, OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

Last month, I had the pleasure of teaching a class called The Best Kept Secret in Ohio at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.  My presentation let the audience in on this secret: BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program. Most of the almost 60 people in the room had never heard of us or what we do.

I began the session with a brief history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the consultation program, then explained who is eligible to receive our free and confidential services. Basically, all employers covered by OSHA regulations can request an On-Site consultation. The program gives priority to privately-owned smaller businesses, and those in high-hazard industries. Typically, a grant from OSHA funds 90 percent of the program while BWC covers the other 10 percent (this year it’s closer to an 86-14 split). This means there is never any charge to use our services.

Most of the questions focused on the relationship between consultation and enforcement. I believe most employers want to do the right thing and provide a safe workplace; sometimes they are simply unaware of hazards that exist in their businesses. Our consultants point out these hazards with the understanding that the employer will abate the serious ones.  Our services are confidential from OSHA, however, if an employer refuses to abate serious hazards, we can refer them for possible enforcement action. While an employer is actively working with OSHA On-Site Consultation, they have “visit in progress” status, which means OSHA cannot open a programmed enforcement inspection.

Additionally, businesses that have an exemplary safety and health program can qualify for the programmed inspection exemption for up to three years by becoming a SHARP employer. SHARP – Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program – companies have demonstrated excellence in all aspects of managing safety and health.

I ended the class by sharing information about how attendees can contact the OSHA On-Site Consultation program to ask questions or request a consultation. I also covered how recent OSHA standard revisions (e.g., walking and working surfaces or recordkeeping) could impact their workplaces. Developing a relationship with an On-Site consultant can make it easier to keep up with changes and make staying in compliance easier.

After the session, I had a good conversation with several people regarding work policies and practices that could be OSHA violations in their workplaces. My fellow consultants want to help your business too.

BWC nets nine fraud convictions in March

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation secured nine convictions in March of workers and employers who cheated, or attempted to cheat, the agency out of funds reserved for legitimately injured workers and workplace safety efforts.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department has secured 38 convictions this calendar year, as of March 31. Last month’s cases include:

Ronnie Simmons Jr. of Cleveland, dba Simmons Adult Care, Lapsed Coverage
Simmons pleaded guilty March 29 to a minor misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud for failing to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance. Following a judge’s order, he paid his outstanding balance of $3,587 to BWC.

Michelle Litton of Marysville, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Litton operating a pet grooming business out of her home while receiving BWC benefits. She pleaded guilty March 28 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was sentenced to one day of jail time and given credit for time served.

Charles Knight of Cuyahoga Falls, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Knight working as an independent contractor and construction laborer while receiving BWC benefits. Knight pleaded guilty March 23 to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He paid $3,731 in restitution to BWC.

Jennifer Garner of Toledo, Working and Receiving
Garner pleaded guilty March 21 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge ordered Garner, who was found working while receiving disability benefits, to pay BWC $7,645 in restitution and sentenced her to five years of community control and a suspended jail term of four months. Garner paid $1,000 prior to her guilty plea.

James Miller of Fulton County, Attempted Workers’ Compensation Fraud
Miller pleaded guilty March 17 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of attempted workers compensation fraud after he and his sister were found withdrawing and sharing their late father’s BWC cash benefits. A judge sentenced him to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine. His sister, Cecilia Williams, was sentenced in February to two years of community control, a suspended jail term of seven months and ordered to take a theft education course.

Patrick Fachman of Columbus, False Claim
Fachman pleaded guilty March 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, for filing two false injured worker’s claims against a former employer. He was sentenced to one day in jail time and given credit for time served.

Jamie Miller of Columbus, Falsified Coverage Application
Miller obtained workers’ compensation coverage for a painting business she purported to own. But investigators found she was merely trying to obtain a valid BWC certificate for her husband, Shannon Miller, a painter whose coverage had lapsed. Jamie Miller pleaded guilty March 14 to one count of criminal mischief, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was given credit for two days jail time served. She must complete 24 hours of community service in lieu of fines and court costs.

Daniel Burch of Akron, dba Check Mart, Lapsed Coverage
Burch failed to cooperate with the BWC Employer Compliance Department that was helping him to reinstate BWC coverage that had been lapsed since 2008. Burch pleaded guilty March 13 to failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was ordered to bring his policy into compliance with the law.

John Lewis of Cincinnati, Working and Receiving
Already serving time in an Indiana prison for a burglary conviction, Lewis pleaded guilty March 9 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud and was sentenced to nine months incarceration, to be served concurrent with his Indiana sentence. BWC investigators discovered Lewis had been working for a Wendy’s restaurant while collecting $32,532 in BWC benefits from June 2013 to August 2014.

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

Don’t be shocked or surprised – use lockout/tagout

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a standard called the Control of Hazardous Energy – most folks know it as lockout/tagout. This standard is one of the most important in all of OSHA’s regulations; still many do not understand or do not follow the rules. In 1990, this rule became law in a response to 122 fatalities and approximately 50,000 injuries per year. This OSHA law is 29 CFR 1901.147.

The theory behind the law is simple: if you have workers exposed to hazardous energy, you must stop the energy and lock out the energy source to prevent accidental releases that can cause injury.

OK, maybe that doesn’t sound simple – so let me give you an example. If you are changing a ballast in a light fixture, you must lock out the breaker or disconnect it while doing the work so others do not accidently turn it on. Or if you are repairing a large fan, you must put a lock on the energy source (like a breaker) so your co-worker cannot turn the fan on while your hands (and maybe your head) are in the machine.

That sounds pretty important, right? There is plenty of potential for fatalities while working on any type of equipment, this standard and these rules can keep you safe, maybe even alive, to work another day.

From a regulation standpoint, there are multiple parts to the standard. The scope of the standard defines what is included and not included. Example: the standard does not cover work on live electrical. You should never work on live electrical. However, if you do, you must follow OSHA Subpart S and the NFPA 70E standards. There are also definitions covering who the players are and their roles.

The main parts of the standard are the written program, energy control procedures, periodic inspections and training. There are very specific requirements about the equipment workers use for lockout/tagout as well as detailed instructions for group lockout, shift changes and outside personnel. I’ll focus on the four main sections I listed above.

Written program
First, a written program: This is a must and required by any company that has an energy source that could cause harm. Even if you do not perform the work internally, you must have a plan in place to ensure injuries do not occur. The written program – OSHA calls it the Energy Control Program – must be in writing and be an overview of your plan. This plan includes roles, responsibilities, procedures, inspections and training. This is the overview of how you plan to manage your program.

Energy control procedures
Energy control procedures, oh energy control procedures. This may be the most difficult and tedious of the requirements, but it is oh so important. Develop, document and use the procedures when an employee performs work that could cause the release of hazardous energy. There is a defined list of requirements you must include in the procedures, including, scope, purpose, authorization, rules, enforcement and techniques for actually performing lockouts.

Periodic inspections
Periodic inspections is code for ANNUAL inspections, and don’t forget to do them. The purpose of the annual inspection is to check the written program, the energy control procedures and the training effectiveness. So yes, you need to look at all the written documentation and watch authorized employees actually lock out some of the equipment.

Training
You’ll need to provide some level of training to all employees. Affected employees (those that can be impacted by lockout, but don’t actually do it) must have basic training on what lockout is and what to do if they are affected by a piece of equipment other workers are locking out (aka leave it alone). Authorized employees get the most training because they are responsible for locking out the equipment so they can stay safe. There is no annual requirement for retraining. However, there are many circumstances where employees need retraining, like changes and failure to follow the rules.

The importance of locking out can’t be shouted loud enough. There are too many examples of workers not using lockout with horrific consequences. The 18-year-old caught in a large shredder. A 50-something accidentally pulled into a washer. The maintenance worker electrocuted while changing a live outlet at a nursing home. Unfortunately, I could go on for hours. Accidents can strike any industry, any age and any employee skill level. If a company’s management doesn’t take lockout/tagout seriously, neither will workers.

Don’t feel helpless if you don’t have a program or you’re worried yours isn’t up to par. Our Division of Safety & Hygiene offers classes, videos and expert safety consultants to help you develop or evaluate your program. Just contact them!

Coal miner digs himself a hole in fraud scheme

A former coal miner from northeast Ohio owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $40,000 after BWC investigators found him creating phony employment records to secure BWC cash benefits.

Steven R. Kornbau, 50, of Mahoning County, pleaded guilty March 28 to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Kornbau to reimburse BWC $40,514 and sentenced him to six months in jail, which he then suspended for five years of community control.

“As Mr. Kornbau’s case shows, some people get creative in trying to cheat the workers’ compensation system” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “But that’s no match for our investigators and claims personnel who are trained to detect suspicious claims and stop fraud when they see it. The funds we recover from this case will return to where they belong — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

Kornbau’s case centers around “working wage-loss benefits” he received from Dec. 1, 2014 until April 2, 2016. These benefits are designed to make up the difference in wages between the injured worker’s job at the time of injury and the job following recovery if it pays less.

Kornbau, a coal miner when he was injured in 2009, was supposed to be working, or at least actively looking for work, to receive the benefits. Instead, Kornbau created a fictitious company called Anderson’s Windows and Doors and submitted phony payroll records to BWC as evidence he was working. BWC staff noticed inconsistencies in the records in the summer of 2015 and contacted the agency’s Special Investigations Department.

Investigators quickly determined the company was fake, and Kornbau confessed as much during questioning.

In other recent fraud cases:

  • Robert Lester, of Columbus, pleaded guilty April 4 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false claims for BWC benefits. Lester filed the claims stating he was injured at work, when, in fact, he was not employed at the time of his alleged injuries. A judge sentenced him to 13 days in jail and gave him credit for 13 days served.
  • Shawn Lines, 41, of Ashtabula, pleaded guilty April 3 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lines to reimburse BWC $5,370 in minimum payments of at least $125 a month.
  • Ronnie Simmons Jr., of Cleveland, owner of Simmons Adult Care, pleaded guilty March 29 to a minor misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud for failing to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance. Following a judge’s order, he paid his outstanding balance of $3,587 to BWC.

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

Promote driving safety at your company and at home

By Jennifer Morgan, BWC Fleet Supervisor

The other day I was driving to work on a three-lane freeway when a silver Honda in front of me swerved left of center, which caused the mid-sized Ford in the left lane to jerk quickly to avoid making contact with the Honda. The Ford’s appropriate instinct caused a chain reaction in the left lane.

Meanwhile the Honda nonchalantly weaved back into its lane and then into the far right lane (without using signals). When I passed the Honda minutes later, I noticed that the driver was seemingly unaware of what just happened and what kind of trouble he caused. Of course, the driver of the Honda was on his phone, likely for the entire incident.

Last week, a driver – who acknowledged to witnesses that he was texting while driving – collided with a church minibus in an accident that killed 13 people in rural Texas. Last year, approximately 40,000 people died in a vehicle crash, the most deaths in nine years. Many sources say the cause of the crash increase is due to driving distracted – mainly cell phones.

As an agency that strives to prevent accidents and strives to promote safe environments, we encourage you to review your driving habits at home and at work. Especially if your company maintains a fleet, there are practices that you can help implement to make everyone safer.

Driver training
As Fleet Supervisor for BWC, I am responsible for making sure our employees are safe on the road. With 309 vehicles in our fleet, a lot of driving occurs throughout Ohio. That’s why, in addition to driving background checks, we require all assigned drivers to complete a four-hour defensive driving course. The course is online so they can complete the course over a period of time, at their convenience.

Every year, drivers are required to complete an updated training program that gives them a reminder that safe driving is a good practice for everyone.

Take the pledge
In addition to training, we require drivers to sign a no texting pledge because we believe it is an important part of holding our drivers accountable for avoiding this distracting and unsafe behavior. You can encourage anyone to take the pledge for any type of driving, personal or work-related. The National Safety Council has a user-friendly pledge form here.

Be aware
This time of year, we send reminders to our drivers that warmer weather brings potential hazards to the roadways. More pedestrians are out walking around. Children are riding their bikes in the street and more bikers in general are riding on the roads. More motorcyclists take to the roads this time of year as well. Drivers need to pay special attention and share the road. A quick reminder to your co-workers about these potential hazards can have a beneficial outcome, including saving a life. If you need advice determining what safety programs you can implement in your fleet, please call me at 614-441-0763.

BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene’s consultants are also available to answer your questions and assist your safe driving efforts. Call 1-800-644-6292 for more information.

Fulton County siblings ordered to reimburse BWC $6K+

Pair took late father’s monthly cash benefits

A judge has ordered a Fulton County sister and brother to reimburse $6,657 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for taking their father’s BWC benefits in the immediate months following his death in 2014.

Cecilia Williams, 36, of Fayette, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. She was sentenced Feb. 27 to two years of community control and a suspended jail term of seven months. She also must take a theft education course.

Her brother, James Miller, 35, of Wauseon, was sentenced March 17 to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine after pleading guilty to attempted workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Both have already paid restitution to BWC.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned in 2014 that Williams’ and Miller’s father had passed away on March 15 that year, but no one had reported his death or returned his BWC cash benefits to the agency. Agents later discovered that a total of $6,657 had been withdrawn from ATMs between the dates of March 27, 2014, and July 17, 2014.

Williams admitted to agents that she withdrew the funds using her deceased father’s debit card for personal monetary gain and then provided half of the money to her brother.

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