A year of blogging

The BWC Blog just reached its one year anniversary in October. We launched this blog back in 2015 and named it Prevention & Care to demonstrate our commitment to both preventing workplace injuries and caring for workers who are injured on the job. We’ve enjoyed sharing all the most recent updates from BWC, and helpful information and tips on a range of topics here on the blog in 2016.

Celebrating our first full year, we pulled our most popular blogs and found they cover a range of issues from fraud to safe outdoor grilling. Click through the top five to see our most popular blogs of the year:

  1. Lima business owner conspires with acquaintance to evade workers’ comp coverage
  2. Ohio border no longer a barrier
  3. There is no “all states” endorsement
  4. OSC16 – a look back in photos
  5. Before you start to grill – remember hank hill

Now we invite you to peruse the entire blog for much more you may have missed this year!

Thank you for following the BWC Blog. It’s been a great year and we look forward to digging even deeper into workers’ comp issues here on this blog in 2017.

SID donations brighten holidays for children in need

The elves in BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) were busy again this holiday season.

A truckload of toys were delivered Dec. 16 to the Columbus Fire Department Engine House #1 in downtown Columbus for its Firefighters for Kids toy drive.

A $500 check also went to Franklin County Children’s services for their holiday wish program, and 42 gift cards worth $545 were delivered to Dayton Children’s Hospital for patients and families in need.

The donations are a holiday tradition in SID, and the highlight of our year.

All of us in BWC’s SID wish you a happy holiday season and all the best in the New Year!

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(left to right) Fraud Analyst Beth Parker, Fraud Investigator Kelli Anderson and Special Agent in Charge Shawn Fox deliver gift cards to Kristi Brown (pictured next to Fox) with Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Becky Donchess, Vern Davenport, Pam Hunnicutt and Darrin Blosser of BWC’s Special Investigations Department deliver donations to Columbus Fire Department Engine House #1 in downtown Columbus.

Columbus woman who stole relative’s workers’ comp check pleads to theft charge

A Columbus woman who stole a relative’s workers’ comp check pleaded guilty to theft in a Franklin County courtroom last week.

Kelly Clark, 38, became the subject of an investigation after an injured worker contacted BWC’s Special Investigations Department to report he did not receive a benefits check he was expecting in the mail. He suspected it had been stolen and cashed by another party.

Investigators found that Clark, who had been living with the injured worker, her relative, stole the check and endorsed and cashed it without permission.

Clark pleaded guilty to a first degree misdemeanor count of theft on Dec. 15. She was sentenced to 90 days in the Franklin County Jail, including 30 days credited for time served and 60 days suspended as long as she pays $862 in restitution by Sept. 13, 2017.

The Court will hold a review hearing on March 23 to check on her progress toward paying off the restitution.

Winter is here! Protect your workers from icy perils

By Rich Gaul, BWC Safety Technical Adviser

Winter is officially here. Are you and your employees ready for the harsh conditions of the season?

Taking some simple steps can help protect your employees from ailments caused by exposure to low temperatures, wind and moisture.

The two primary health risks in cold weather are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can replace it, causing your core body temperature to drop below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Frostbite is a condition where human tissue freezes. Frostbite most commonly affects the face, ears, fingers and toes.  It is important to recognize the early warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite and take necessary precautions to prevent them.

Early warning signs of hypothermia include feeling extremely cold; shivering; cold or numb fingertips or toes; impaired fine-motor control; slurred speech; confusion or disorientation; drowsiness. You should train employees to recognize these early warning signs and how to take the necessary precautions to prevent hypothermia.

Treatment for hypothermia includes getting the person indoors or to other warm shelter; removing wet or damp clothing; wrapping them in warm dry blankets; getting them to drink warm, sweet liquids; monitoring their condition closely and calling for emergency medical attention if needed.

Early warning signs of frostbite include skin that appears slightly swollen, waxy looking and feels cold or numb. More severe frostbite affects deeper layers of tissue. Skin may become completely numb and blister. Deep tissue, including muscle, blood vessels and bone may freeze and turn black.

Treatment for frostbite includes getting the victim indoors or to other warm shelter; removing any wet or damp clothing; removing jewelry or constrictive clothing that could restrict blood flow; gently and slowly warming the superficial frostbite by covering affected areas with warm dry towels or submerging in lukewarm water (100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit); seeking immediate medical attention for moderate to severe frostbite.

Prevention – employers should:

  • Train employees;
  • Provide engineering controls;
  • Implement safe work practices;
  • Consider protective clothing that provides warmth.

Training – at a minimum employers should train workers on:

  • Recognizing the symptoms of cold stress and frostbite and prevention measures;
  • The importance of self-monitoring and monitoring coworkers for symptoms;
  • First-aid procedures and how to call for medical assistance in an emergency;
  • How to select and wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions.

 Engineering controls – employers should:

  • Provide shields around outdoor work areas to reduce wind chill;
  • Add radiant heaters if feasible;
  • Apply de-icing materials to prevent slips and falls.

 Safe work practices

  • Schedule routine maintenance and repairs during warmer months.
  • Schedule cold-weather jobs in the warmer part of the day.
  • Monitor weather conditions and avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
  • Limit the amount of time outdoors in cold weather.
  • Provide warming areas for use during breaks.
  • Provide warm liquids to drink.
  • Acclimatize employees gradually to allow them to build up tolerance to cold environments.
  • Monitor employees and provide means of communication.

Protective clothing
Although there is no Occupational Safety and Health requirement for employers to provide workers with ordinary clothing or other items solely for protection from cold weather, many employers provide workers with winter weather gear such as winter coats, hats, gloves, etc.  Regardless of whether the employer or the employee provides protective clothing, employers should encourage employees to wear proper clothing for cold-weather conditions. This includes wearing:

  • Several layers of loose fitting clothing, allowing workers to add or remove layers as needed;
  • A hat that covers your ears;
  • Mittens or gloves;
  • Thick wool socks and waterproof boots to keep your feet warm and dry.

Other considerations
When performing outdoor work activities:

  • Warm up and stretch before any strenuous physical exercise, including snow shoveling;
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated;
  • Protect your back by using good lifting techniques;
  • Pace yourself to avoid sweating;
  • Adjust your clothing layers according to your physical activity;
  • Take frequent breaks and go indoors to warm up;
  • Move slowly and carefully to avoid slipping on icy pavement.

Working in cold winter weather conditions or indoor cold environments may be unavoidable, but following the practices outlined above will help keep employees safe when they are exposed to cold conditions.

Landscaper cuts corners, gets workers’ comp fraud conviction

maguireA Cincinnati man who ran his landscaping business for at least five years without workers’ compensation coverage pleaded guilty to two fifth-degree felony counts of workers’ compensation fraud Dec. 6.

Acting on a tip in 2014, investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation conducted surveillance and interviewed employees of William T. Maguire’s Grass Roots Landscaping & Lawn Care to determine Maguire continued to operate his business after his BWC policy lapsed in September 2009. Maguire, 35, owes premiums to BWC totaling $92,447.

Maguire’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18 in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. Penalty guidelines for a fifth-degree felony in Ohio include six to 12 months in prison and fines of up to $2,500. A judge also could order Maguire to pay restitution to BWC.

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

BWC investigators net 8 fraud convictions in November

BWC investigators secured eight convictions in November on cases involving workers’ compensation fraud, including two cases where suspects were found living and working in Florida.

“These cases demonstrate the skill and diligence of our investigators to track down and hold accountable those who try to cheat the workers’ compensation system,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “We will find cheats whether they are residing in Ohio or in the far corners of another state.”

As of Nov. 30, BWC’s Special Investigations Department had secured 99 convictions for the calendar year. November’s convictions include:

Jarrod Lewis of Palm Bay, Florida – Working and Receiving
Lewis pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Nov. 28 after BWC investigators found him working as a carpet cleaner in Florida while collecting injured workers’ benefits from BWC. A judge ruled Lewis, formerly of Chillicothe, must pay $5,300 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation in lieu of a 12-month prison sentence for committing the fifth-degree felony.

William Numbers, Sr., dba Nycom Inc., of Lima, Ohio (Allen County) – Operating without Coverage
Numbers pleaded guilty Nov. 21 to two second-degree misdemeanor counts of failure to comply after agents discovered he was operating his automobile transmission shop without valid BWC coverage. Numbers was sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended), fined $300 and ordered to have no further failure to comply charges for the next two years.

Manuel Perez of West Portsmouth, Ohio (Scioto County) – Working and Receiving
Perez pleaded guilty Nov. 21 to misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud and theft. He must pay $132,239 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation. He paid $10,000 toward his restitution at his sentencing. He also was sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended so long as he complies with the terms of his probation.

Agents determined Perez collected injured workers’ benefits for four years while running an automobile repair shop out of his residence.

Thomas Gallagher of Dublin, Ohio (Franklin County) – False Claim
Gallagher pleaded guilty Nov. 16 to one first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators determined he had filed false injury reports twice in recent years to obtain painkillers at local hospital emergency departments. He was sentenced to six months probation and ordered to pay BWC $620 for the cost of investigating him.

Theodore Philput, dba as Berwick Electric Company, of Canal Winchester, Ohio (Fairfield County) – Operating without Coverage
Philput pleaded no contest Nov. 14 to four counts of workers’ compensation fraud, all first-degree misdemeanors, and a judge found him guilty on all charges. Investigators determined Philput’s BWC policy had been lapsed since October 2009. They served Philput compliance materials, but Philput failed to reinstate his coverage.

Philput provided BWC $29,609 in restitution at sentencing. A judge sentenced him to two years community control and warned he would serve 180 days in jail on each count if he violated terms of his probation.

Michael Mitchell of Whitehall, Ohio (Franklin County) – Working and Receiving
Mitchell pleaded guilty Nov. 7 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud during a court appearance that was delayed after he failed to appear for his 2013 arraignment. He was sentenced to 11 months of incarceration, suspended for five years of community control, and ordered to pay BWC $5,000 in restitution.

Investigators discovered Mitchell was self-employed as a painter and sub-contracted multiple jobs from various painting companies while also collecting benefits from BWC. They also determined Mitchell did not have current workers’ compensation coverage and that he altered his BWC certificate of coverage in order to secure painting jobs.

Nikitas Xipolitas of Tarpon Springs, Florida – Working and Receiving
Xipolitas, formerly of Mahoning County, pleaded guilty Nov. 4 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after agents found him working in Florida while receiving workplace injury benefits and using multiple aliases to cover his crime. A judge sentenced Xipolitas to six months in jail, suspended for five years of community control, under the condition that he pay $23,601 in restitution to BWC.

Danielle Cheeks of Groveport, Ohio (Franklin County) – Working and Receiving
Cheeks pleaded guilty Nov. 3 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators discovered she had been working as a home health aide as far back as 2010 while receiving injured workers’ benefits from BWC. A judge ruled she must pay $51,590 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation in lieu of a six-month jail sentence.

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