Ohio private employers: The time is true-ly here!

bnrPayrollTrueUpHere

BWC has transitioned to prospective billing over the past year. To complete the policy year, we now require employers to submit a payroll true-up report either online or by phone. The true-up period for private employers begins July 1 with true-up reports due by Aug. 15.

Although reporting by phone is an option, we strongly encourage the use our online system. This method will save you time and money. Not only will you avoid potentially long wait times on the phone, you can take advantage of our Go-green rebate, to earn a 2-percent discount, up to a maximum of $2,000, for completing your true-up report online. Sorry, this is not available to minimum premium payers. Don’t forget that completion of the payroll true-up report includes reporting payroll and making any additional premium payments online (if you do owe premium).

If you have never established an e-account, it’s very simple to do. Check out this video to learn how.

Also, be sure to watch this simple video that walks you through the steps to complete your payroll true-up report and/or print these instructions.

If you have questions, you can always send an email to: bwcprospectivebilling@bwc.state.oh.us.

Lastly, remember that as part of the transition to prospective billing we provided you a transition credit with 1/6th of your estimated payroll paid for by BWC. When you complete your payroll true-up, we will adjust your transition credit (up or down) to be 1/6th of your total premium.

So, don’t forget to complete your payroll true-up online by Aug. 15. There’s a lot riding on this deadline,  including BWC program implications, if you miss it!

Common mistakes that cause great danger in the workplace

Greg Collins, Industrial Safety Administrator, and Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant

Each year, the the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program conducts about 900 visits, during which we provide free occupational safety and health consulting for small, high hazard employers in the private sector. The purpose is to help these employers comply with safety and health standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

During the course of these visits, there are a handful of dangers which we frequently discover over and over again. Employers of all types and sizes should watch out for these dangers. Some of them are easy to overlook. You may find some of these dangers in your homes, as well.

DANGER – Improperly maintained fire extinguishers

  • Sometimes fire extinguishers have materials stacked in front of them, blocking access to them.
    • Extinguishers should be located and mounted with easy access, so that in the event of a fire they can be put to use.  
  • Required monthly inspections do not get completed, potentially resulting in an extinguisher that needs to be recharged being left in service.
    • To aid in prevention of this danger, see to it that fire extinguishers are added to a monthly inspection checklist.
  • If an extinguisher is blocked or not properly charged when a person needs it, they could be injured trying to get to it, or be exposed to injuries from exposure to smoke and fire.

Improperly maintained fire extinguishers

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.157(c)(1) requires fire extinguishers to be mounted, identified, and accessible. The extinguisher in the above photo is obstructed making use of it delayed when seconds count. This shows that sometimes fire extinguishers can fade into the background over time, and people can block them without ever realizing it.

DANGER – Improperly using electrical equipment

  • Electrical equipment should be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. (UL). This listing may be imprinted on the equipment, or be located on a tag.
    • OSHA provides a listing of Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) requirements for these marks at this website. Unlisted equipment may not be safe to use, and it may not be safe to use equipment in a manner that is not consistent with the labeling.
  • Using equipment for a purpose that is not consistent with its listing may result in shock, electrocution, or fire. Make sure to purchase listed equipment.

Improperly using electrical equipment

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.303(b)(2) requires electrical equipment to be used in accordance with manufacturer instructions. The violation shown in the picture is plugging a coffee pot into a power strip. The instructions for power strips intend they only be used with small electronic loads, like computer equipment.

DANGER – Machine guarding

  • The most common danger is missing or ineffective guarding of the point of operation (The place where the work is done.) on machinery.
    • It is important to inspect equipment before each use to ensure that guards are in place and in good condition.
    • When maintenance personnel/machine operators remove guards to service machines, they may not re-install them and leave them on the floor.
    • Sometimes the guards are removed because they are perceived as making the machines difficult to operate.
    • Sometimes the equipment is purchased without a manufacturer-supplied guard.
  • Whatever the reason, the consequences of not guarding the point of operation on machinery can be very serious, resulting in injuries such as amputations and crushing of hands and fingers. Consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer to get details about appropriate guarding.

Machine guarding

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.212(a)(3)(ii) covers point of operation hazards on machinery and equipment. The picture shown is a stamping die that clamps two pieces of metal together. The violation shown is the lack of guarding, which can cause injury to anyone reaching inside.

Assistance is available

BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene has many resources to assist those who are trying to increase awareness of hazards and eliminate them from the workplace. Help is available for just about any occupational safety and health issue that you may encounter. To arrange for a consultative visit from the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program, visit our web site, or call 1.800.282.1425.

BWC nets 2 convictions of Cleveland day care operators

Cases show skipping BWC coverage a costly risk

In separate cases on back-to-back days, Ohio BWC netted two convictions of Cleveland-area day care center operators who refused to pay their workers’ compensation premiums until the BWC pressed criminal charges against them.

One owner must pay the BWC nearly $34,000 and serve one year probation, while the other owner has already paid the BWC nearly $30,000 to bring her centers into compliance.

“These business owners’ refusal to maintain coverage places them in a minority group of employers who seem to disregard the importance of ensuring their employees receive care if they are injured on the job,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Identifying employers that don’t pay helps maintain a fair system that keeps all employers’ premiums as low and stable as possible.”

In the first case, Karon Jones, 45, of Solon, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of Attempted Obstructing Official Business, according to her June 13 sentence in the Cuyahoga County common pleas court. A judge ordered Jones to pay the BWC $33,985 in restitution to bring her policy current and imposed probation in lieu of a six-month jail sentence.

Jones’ policy for Norak Inc., dba Dynamic Creations, lapsed from Jan. 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015. The BWC Employer Fraud Team (EFT) opened Jones’ case in August 2015 after the BWC Special Investigation Department identified the center and other child care facilities operating in Ohio without valid BWC coverage.

In the second case, Tenora M. Edwards-Jones, 47, of Richmond Heights, pleaded guilty June 14 in Cuyahoga County common pleas court to one count of Failure to Comply with the Law, a second-degree misdemeanor. Edwards-Jones had lapsed coverage at two day care centers in Cleveland Heights, Excell Early Learning Center and The Blue Room Ltd., dba Educare Development Center.

Prior to her sentencing, Edwards-Jones paid the BWC $28,514 to bring both policies current.

525,600 minutes: make them all count

By Glenn McGinley, Director,PERRP picture Ohio Public Employment Risk Reduction Program

It’s orange barrel season, but, summer isn’t the only time to think about sharing the road safely. Each year is made up of 525,600 minutes and each of those minutes count and require focus and attention when you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Whether you operate a motor vehicle or are working in a roadway right-of-way you face a real risk of serious injury or death. Statistics can be overwhelming but here are a few numbers that emphasize the magnitude of this hazard.

In 2014 there were 32,675 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States. That means every 16 minutes someone died on a roadway. Ohio ranked eighth deadliest with 1006 of those fatalities—nearly  three highway fatalities every day.1

Nationally, 116 workers were in a fatal work zone accident in 2014 and six of those were Ohio workers that didn’t return home at the end of their work day.2   Each and every person that perished in those accidents was someone’s father, mother, son or daughter. Every second counts and every life matters.

That’s why  BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene is committed to reducing the risk of injury to workers  in work zones and in all workplaces across the state. Our multi-disciplinary teams help employers and employees recognize existing and predictable hazards in their workplaces and provides strategies and suggestions for improvements that will help protect workers.

The Ohio Public Employment Risk Reduction Program (PERRP) recently posted a PERRP Work Zone Safety Alert (PSA) to bring attention to the hazardous conditions employees face in work zones. The PSA provides information about training, work practices and controls that may be necessary to reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatal work zone related accidents.

PERRP provides compliance assistance services to government agencies and conducts occupational safety and health enforcement inspections for those agencies. To learn more about PERRP or to request information, visit our web site or send an email to PERRPRequests@bwc.state.oh.us. For more information on work zone safety, visit www.workzonesafety.org.

 

1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)

2United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

 

Grove City man worked for pest control company while on workers’ comp

Terry Shaver booking photoA Grove City man who was off work and collecting injured worker’s benefits from his employer now must pay his employer back after investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discovered him secretly working another job.

Terry Shaver, 57, pleaded guilty June 8 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge ordered Shaver to pay his employer $5,000 in restitution and sentenced him to 180 days in jail. The judge suspended the jail sentence and sentenced Shaver to one year of community control.

Acting on a tip, the BWC’s Special Investigations Department began investigating Shaver last year and found him working as an independent contractor for a local pest control company. Investigators say Shaver “worked knowingly and with fraudulent intent and concealed his employment” from the BWC and his regular employer.

Court records show Shaver has paid his employer $2,023 in restitution to date.

Home health aide worker convicted of workers’ comp fraud

Angelique Braxton booking photoA Columbus woman who worked for more than 20 months while receiving injured worker’s benefits must serve two years of community control and pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $2,000 for investigating her.

Angelique Braxton, 45, pleaded guilty June 15 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge sentenced Braxton to 60 days in jail before suspending the sentence as part of a plea deal, and ordered her to pay the BWC $1,902 for its investigation. Braxton was overpaid $37,962.17 due to her fraudulent activities. She paid the entire amount back prior to the plea agreement.

The BWC’s Special Investigations Department this year found Braxton working as a home health aide while receiving Temporary Total Disability Benefits from the BWC.

There is no “all-states” endorsement

A discussion with Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager, and Jim Klingensmith, Independent Insurance Agent

Since implementing BWC’s Other States Coverage program in March 2016, we have received applications from over 200 Ohio employers looking for coverage outside the state of Ohio. We have been happy to assist these employers in meeting their workers’ comp liability and have answered many questions along the way.

The questions are understandable, as workers’ comp is a complex system. Apart from a few federal programs for certain occupations such as coal and marine exposures, there is no federal system for workers’ comp. Instead, each state has established its own rules, laws and benefit levels. Considerations need to be made of each state an employer sends employees into to ensure that proper coverage is in place.

Often, when we receive applications, the employer wants an “all-states” endorsement or may be traveling in all states and wants a policy that will protect them wherever their business may take them. This is understandable, as it is often hard to predict where a job will be won or where a new client will be located. Although there are options for the employer to secure coverage, there is not the ability to simply purchase a policy covering all states. Because of the peculiarities of each state, we do need to know what states an employer wants on its policy so that we can properly price and quote the coverage and ensure that claims will be covered if filed.

Given the complexity of this issue, I asked Jim Klingensmith, a seasoned independent insurance agent and a Certified Workers’ Compensation Advisor (CWCA), to weigh in on the topic. Jim works out of an agency in Canfield, Ohio and is a member of Ohio Insurance Agent’s Association’s Workers’ Compensation Committee.

Kendra: Jim, you have clearly been advising clients on workers’ compensation for many years. It is my understanding that the “Broad Form All – States” endorsement for workers’ compensation was eliminated in the 1990s. And now it is important that employers list the states with known exposures on their policy. What information do you typically provide your clients who have operations or may have operations in several states?

Jim: We always make it clear to them that it is imperative that at policy inception, any states in which they already have ongoing operations, a contract to work in during the policy year or know that they will absolutely be working in during the policy year, must be listed in Item 3.A. (Workers’ Comp states) portion of the Workers’ Comp application. Failure to do so, could be cause for declination of coverage.

And of course, they will also have to list any other states in which they have a physical presence (office, satellite office, temporary office, etc.). It is also suggested that if their corporation was filed for in another state, that the state of incorporation be listed, if it is different than where their regular operations and office are located.  Item 3.C. of the application (other states insurance) is to be used to list the states that they reasonably anticipate working in, but have no current known exposure in those states, thereby allowing for temporary coverage until reported (must be within 30 days).

Kendra: As Jim mentioned, there is a section of standard workers’ compensation policies (3C) that provides temporary coverage for new exposures an employer may have over the course of the policy year. If an employer begins work in a new state, they should call us to have the new state added to the policy. It is a simple endorsement that can be done quickly. Jim, why is it so important that states with known exposure are listed in 3A of the policy?

Jim: Because Item 3.A. (also titled Workers’ Comp States), is where the employer is actually applying for Workers’ Compensation coverage for the states that have a known exposure. If the employer doesn’t list the states with known exposures, then coverage is not applicable after “30 days” have passed without the exposure being reported…NO EXCEPTIONS!

Kendra: What about a client who is just “passing through” a state? Do they need to get coverage if they are only there for a short time?

Jim: This is a Hot Topic in the Workers’ comp world. The safest way to avoid a gap in coverage, is to list under Item 3.C. (other states), the states that you reasonably anticipate that you might enter into during the policy year. WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT 3.C. (other states coverage) PROVIDES TEMPORARY COVERAGE FOR 30 DAYS. And technically, even though there is a 30 day reporting clause, there is an important clause in the policy that states “Tell us (the insurer) at once if you begin work in any state listed in Item 3.C. of the information page (application). The insurer is utilizing these measurers within the contract (WC policy) to exercise a degree of control over the loss potential. In other words, the bigger the claim the more the insurer will look to the contract (WC policy), and hold steadfast to the language (warnings and/or clauses).

Kendra: There are a few states that are monopolistic and cannot be include on a private insurance policy. Ohio is one of the monopolistic states, but so are Washington, Wyoming and North Dakota. What would you tell clients who have operations in these states?

Jim: They must be sure to purchase Workers’ Compensation coverage directly from each of the states you mentioned, because there is no other way from them to have coverage. Which aside from Ohio, are Washington, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Kendra: I think the best direction we can give employers doing business outside Ohio, is to provide us with as much information as possible about where and how often you are traveling so that we can make sure proper coverage is in place. Jim, do you agree?

Jim: Yes, I do agree. Providing the right information upfront, as well as adhering to the stipulations of Workers’ Comp policy, especially the reporting requirements. The safest way for the employer to list their potential exposures under Item 3.C. (other states), is to utilizing the following wording on the application for Item 3.C. “All states except North Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and those listed in Item 3.A., with the understanding that, in order to be safe, the employer should notify the insurance company as soon as work has begun in any state not listed in Item 3.A., and not wait for the 30 day reporting period to go by.

Kendra: Jim, living on the Ohio – Pennsylvania border, I know you often deal with this issue. Any other information you would like to share?

Jim: The most important point that any employer should pay attention to, is the fact that when it comes to insurance, especially Workers’ comp, an open channel of communication is critical to being properly insured. Otherwise, the employer will be paying for an employee’s injury out of their own business checking account, and in some states, their personal checking account as well!

 

*The intent of this blog post is for general information purposes only. We do not intend it to be a full and complete description of the law, nor as legal advice. This information is subject to change. Therefore, we cannot guarantee it is the most current and correct information. Employers should consult an insurance professional, private counsel, or the workers’ compensation agency in the other state to verify requirements of that state.

Beat the heat of the “Dog Days of Summer”

By Jeff Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

We know that the “dog days of summer” are typically the hottest, most humid days of the year.  But did you ever wonder how they got their name?

According to the Farmers’ Almanac[1], the name originated during ancient Roman times.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the star Sirius prominently occupies the same region of the sky as the Sun in late summer.  Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog.  The Romans believed this bright star added to the sun’s heat during the time when Sirius is most visible (roughly July 3 – August 11); hence the “dog days” of summer.

While the origin of the name is rooted in mythology, the truth is that when sweltering weather arrives, the dangers of heat-related illnesses are very real.  When the combination of environmental conditions [temperature + humidity + air movement]and physical exertion result in your body producing more heat that it can release through sweating and respiration, your core temperature can rise to unsafe and unhealthy levels.  Symptoms can range from mild (Heat Exhaustion) to life-threatening (Heat Stroke).  It doesn’t matter if you’re in your backyard, on the playing field or at work, identifying a potential heat stress situation and taking prompt action is the key.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the University of Washington both have excellent resources for identifying and treating heat illnesses.

OSHA Heat Safety ToolPreparing yourself for the heat is an often overlooked step.  Watching the weather forecast, getting enough rest, being properly hydrated, avoiding caffeine & alcohol and dressing appropriately are all steps that minimize the risk of developing a heat illness.  Scheduling strenuous activities earlier in the day can reduce your risk as well.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a Heat Safety Tool app that calculates the heat index for your location and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level for outdoor activity. Then, with a simple “click,” you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect yourself from heat-related illness.

While a dog may be man’s best friend, having human companions watching out for each other during hot weather is important, too.  Being alert to the signs & symptoms of heat illness in family members, teammates and co-workers, and checking on vulnerable friends and neighbors, like the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, are all steps we can take to keep everyone safe in the heat.

Heat Safety Pic 2And finally, take a tip from our canine friends: when it gets too hot, take a big drink of water and find a cool spot to rest.

 

[1] Why Are They Called “Dog Days” of Summer? (2015)   Retrieved 9 June 2016 from Farmers’ Almanac online.

Stand ready to respond

tomorrow starts today graphicBy Mark Leung, Division of Safety & Hygiene Intern

Tomorrow starts today.

These are the words my high school music teacher ingrained into my head. At the time, it was one of the most annoying phrases I heard every day as he used it to encourage practicing our music for upcoming events. Every time he mentioned it, I was one of the many to roll my eyes at him.  He stressed the need to put in the work today, so that we are ready for tomorrow. Little did I know that this phrase would carry on with me as a personal philosophy through college and into my professional career. Preparing to be prepared will put you ahead in all aspects of life. This is especially true when it comes to safety, and it is not something to roll your eyes over.

Preparing and planning today will make a significant difference if the unexpected happens tomorrow. Whether it is a medical emergency, a natural disaster, or even a slip and fall, knowing what to do can be the difference between life and death. Just knowing that something could happen is not enough. We also need to know what to do if it does. In order to accomplish this, assess potential risks and have emergency action plans in place. Emergency drills should be practiced at work, school and home.

It is a good idea to have a plan and to train in emergency response. This may include training in CPR/AED, first aid, and even workplace violence. Training ensures we have the skills and confidence needed to respond quickly in emergencies and not be deer in headlights. When it comes to medical emergencies, proper interventions can be provided if we know what to do. Hesitation may cost us seconds, but every second counts.

National Safety Month serves as a reminder to be mindful of these safety practices. These principles will benefit you, your family and or your coworkers when the unexpected arises. Every ounce of investment into preparation has the potential to save lives. Are you ready to respond? Remember, tomorrow starts today!

              nsm2016

Ohio BWC investigative unit nets 5 convictions in May

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation landed five convictions in May of individuals caught cheating the workers’ compensation system or deceptively obtaining prescription narcotics.

Those convicted included one woman who was cashing in on a dead man’s injured worker’s benefits, another who falsely claimed she was poisoned at work, two men who were found working while receiving BWC benefits and another who hoodwinked two physicians into writing overlapping prescriptions for painkillers.

“Investigating and putting an end to fraud helps protect the benefits of injured workers and keep employers’ premiums down,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “That’s why BWC is so proactive in pursuing all employers, medical providers, workers and others who are committing fraud.”

The BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) has netted 45 convictions so far this year. May’s convictions include:

Darlean McCurdy (Hamilton County) – McCurdy pleaded guilty May 10 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators photographed her using a deceased BWC claimant’s EBT card to withdraw cash from several ATMs.

A Hamilton County common pleas court judge on May 24 ordered McCurdy to perform 100 hours of community service, serve five years probation and repay the BWC $7,321.16, plus $2,265 in investigative costs. She was also sentenced to a year in prison but only if she violates her parole.

Jennifer Martin (Morrow County) – Martin filed for BWC benefits after claiming to police someone at work poisoned her by putting bug spray in her beverage. A police investigation found her claim to be false.

Martin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 10 in Mason Municipal Court. A judge sentenced her to one year probation and ordered her to repay the BWC $2,143.50 for its investigation and pay court costs of $420. The judge also sentenced her to 180 days in jail, which he then suspended.

James Calvey (Cuyahoga County) — Calvey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 17 after investigators filmed him working as a tow truck driver while receiving Temporary Total Disability Benefits from the BWC. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Calvey to 10 days in jail, to be served in August, and fined him $100.

Carol Hoover (Pike County) – Hoover pleaded guilty May 10 in Clark County Common Pleas Court to one count of deception to obtain a dangerous drug, a felony of the fifth degree. She was sentenced June 1 to two years of community control and fined $1,000.

BWC investigators became suspicious after reviewing records indicating Hoover received narcotic prescriptions with overlapping fill dates from two different physicians. When interviewed, the physicians said they felt deceived and would not have prescribed the narcotics had they been aware of the other prescribing physician.

Spiro Frangos (Mahoning County) — Frangos pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, on May 9, after investigators found him working as a laborer while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Frangos to two years of community control.