Who says Safety First?

By Ellen S. Nasner, BWC Education and Training Services Manager

Safety First is a phrase we’ve all heard, but where did it come from? It originates from the Safety First Movement, a 20th century movement to reduce workplace hazards. The phrase has been in use since in the United States since the 1910s. It also became popular in Japan around this same time.

At that time in America, railroads and mines were some of the most dangerous places to work, yet they had the least protection for workers. In 1908, the federal government established a very limited compensation system for its employees which helped spur the states into action. In 1910, New York became the first state to pass a workmen’s compensation law.

Ohio followed soon after with the passage of the Ohio Workmen’s Compensation act in 1911. This act came in response to the unchecked and frequent workplace injuries and fatalities of the Industrial Era. It created a state insurance fund in 1912 to compensate workers who were injured on the job. The Industrial Commission of Ohio ran the system until 1955, when the Ohio General Assembly created the Ohio Bureau of Workmen’s Compensation.

Around this same time (1913 to be exact), the National Safety Council formed and adopted the emblem of a green cross with arms of equal length on a white background. To this day, it remains the symbol of protection against accidents. The federal government created the U.S. Department of Labor on March 4, 1913. By 1921, 46 states/jurisdictions had workmen’s compensation laws in force. Fifty years later – on April 28, 1971 – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched. Step by step, Safety First for the worker and the workplace moved to the forefront in the U.S.

Today, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene plays a critical role to ensure safety comes first in Ohio’s workplaces. Find out more about all of the services and programs we offer employers and employees at no cost right here: www.bwc.ohio.gov/catalog.

Fun fact: Safety comes from the French word “sauf” – which is the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes. So, remember – Safety First!



Concrete contractor with lapsed coverage given probation and house arrest

A Toledo-area concrete contractor whose BWC policy lapsed in 2008 must serve one year probation and 15 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring for running his business without BWC coverage, a judge ruled Aug. 23 in Oregon Municipal Court in Lucas County.

Martin Halka, 45, pleaded no contest to one count of failure to comply with the law, a second-degree misdemeanor, but a judge found him guilty and ordered him to pay a $250 fine and $87 in court costs. Halka was initially charged with 10 counts of failure to comply, but prosecutors reduced the charges because he had paid $8,000 toward his BWC balance prior to his court appearance. His BWC coverage won’t be reinstated, however, until his payments are up to date.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Halka in 2014 after its Employer Fraud Team observed Halka, owner of Bay Area Concrete, and his workers finishing a concrete job. Halka provided some payroll records to investigators, but failed to take all the necessary steps to become compliant with the law.

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

Two Central Ohio men guilty in workers’ comp fraud cases

Kash Marzetti booking photo

Kash M. Marzetti

A Columbus swimming pool contractor and a window worker from Lancaster pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud for continuing to work while collecting injured workers’ benefits.

Kash M. Marzetti, 43, had to pay BWC $5,642 in restitution and a $50 court fine as part of his sentence Aug. 22 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Marzetti after a claims service specialist suspected he might be working while collecting temporary total disability benefits. SID subsequently found Marzetti knowingly and with fraudulent intent worked for Marzetti Swimming Pool Services, Inc., doing the same and/or similar work that he was performing when he was injured.

Investigators found in 2011 that Marzetti provided swimming pool inspections, estimates for repairs and new builds, supervised and managed the construction and repair of swimming pools, installed swimming pool accessories and worked as a laborer while collecting injured workers’ benefits.

In the same court two days later, a judge ruled Michael Scott, 52, of Lancaster, must pay BWC $1,836 in restitution for working while receiving injured workers’ benefits. The judge also sentenced Scott to two years community control, which will terminate with full payment of restitution and court costs.

Acting on a tip, BWC’s Special Investigations Department reviewed records and interviewed witnesses in determining Scott worked for a window company for four months in 2014 while collecting BWC benefits.

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

Cutting class load costs man his BWC benefits

A North CarRyan Somnitz booking photoolina man collecting dependent death benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) was sentenced on fraud charges last week for not fulfilling the educational requirements he needed to receive the benefits.

Ryan Somnitz, 25, of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, must pay BWC $22,048 in restitution and serve five years community control, a judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ruled Aug. 24. Somnitz pleaded guilty July 11 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony.

To receive his BWC benefits, Somnitz was required to be pursuing a full-time educational program while enrolled in an accredited educational institution, but he was not. Acting on a tip, BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Somnitz consistently and knowingly remained in part-time student status and withheld from BWC that he was not a full-time student.

The judge ordered Somnitz to receive no new convictions or he would be sentenced to prison for one year. The judge gave him credit for 24 days already served.

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

Fugitive with double identity convicted of workers’ comp fraud

David AbituaA Toledo man with a long arrest record was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud last week after investigators discovered he had lied to his physician and used a fake identity to collect injured workers’ benefits.

David Abitua, 51, pleaded guilty Aug. 18 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was arrested July 19, more than a year after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

“If you try to cheat the workers’ compensation system, even while hiding under a false identity, we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Sarah Morrison, Administrator/CEO for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). “Workers’ compensation fraud raises costs for everyone in the system and diverts resources needed for injured workers and making Ohio workplaces safer.”

Acting on a tip, BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) discovered in 2014 that Abitua had lied to his physician, used a false social security number and an alias of Jose L. Vasquez to collect injured workers’ benefits from Nov. 2, 2009 until Oct. 6, 2012. SID found Abitua was using the alias to conceal that he was wanted by police and had numerous local arrest warrants issued against him under his real name, Abitua.

SID worked with the Northwest Ohio Fugitive Task Force to find Abitua and have him arrested. The arrest marked Abitua’s ninth in Lucas County since 1988, according to the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office. Most of those arrests involved drug- and alcohol-related charges and traffic offenses.

On the workers’ compensation fraud charge, the Franklin County judge fined Abitua court costs and sentenced him to six months community control, plus one year in jail if he violates the terms of his probation. He gave Abitua credit for 41 days already served.