Ohio employers receive $942,000 in workplace safety grants

Forty-one Safety Intervention Grants were approved in December. Employers in twenty-eight counties around the state will share more than $942,000 in grants to purchase equipment designed to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.

Counties include:

Allen Auglaize Brown Clark
Clinton Cuyahoga Fairfield Franklin
Greene Guernsey Hamilton Holmes
Jackson Knox Lorain Lucas
Mahoning Montgomery Portage Preble
Richland Sandusky Scioto Seneca
Stark Van Wert Wayne Wood

Click here for a listing of recipients by county, including descriptions of planned equipment purchases.

The Safety Intervention Grant program provides employers with a 3-to-1 matching amount up to a maximum of $40,000. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies help BWC determine the effectiveness of employers’ safety interventions and establish best practices for accident and injury prevention.

Learn more about the Safety Intervention Grant Program at bwc.ohio.gov. View stories about previous grant recipients on BWC’s YouTube channel.

Cross match in state agency databases leads to fraud convictions

A routine check on injured worker names through state agency databases led to convictions this week of two Ohio men on workers’ compensation fraud charges.

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) ran the workers’ names by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and found records indicating they were employed while concurrently receiving temporary total disability benefits from BWC.

dasse-booking-photoFrederic Dasse, 44, of Canal Winchester, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Franklin County court room to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

A judge ordered Dasse to pay $5,472 in restitution to BWC by July 25 or face 180 days in jail.

beasley-booking-photoIn a separate and unrelated case, Robert Beasley, 56, of Cleveland, must pay BWC $7,065 in restitution after pleading guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

The judge also sentenced Beasley to three years of community control after suspending a 180-day jail sentence.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Dasse, a security guard when he was injured in 2013, was working two jobs while receiving BWC benefits. They found Beasley working as cleaner for a Cleveland-area company while receiving benefits.

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

Opioid education: the dangers of addiction and dependence

By Nick Trego, BWC Clinical Operations Manager

Opioid analgesics are potent pain relieving medications that can cause numerous side effects that range from itching to chronic constipation to hormone deficiencies.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers opioid analgesics to be dangerous drugs with a high potential for abuse and with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Prior to initiating therapy with opioid analgesics, patient education surrounding the risks and benefits of these medications is essential to understanding and developing realistic expectations of treatment outcomes.

Due to the addictive nature of these medications, the Ohio BWC is also taking additional steps to prevent addiction, including collaborating with other organizations to develop fact sheets to help providers, employers and injured workers better understand the potential risks of excessive opioid use.

A few statistics show the importance of understanding the impact opioids are having in Ohio and across the United States:

  • Prescription opioids are associated with more fatal overdoses than any other prescription or illegal drug including cocaine and heroin.1
  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.2
  • Unintentional drug overdose continued to be the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio in 2015, ahead of motor vehicle traffic crashes – a trend which began in 2007.3
  • Unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 3,050 Ohio residents in 2015, the highest number on record, compared to 2,531 in 2014. The number of overdose deaths increased 20.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, which is similar to the increase from 2013 to 2014.4

Increased understanding of the safety and risks associated with the use of opioids will benefit those seeking the best possible medical treatment without facing the consequences of dependence or addiction.

We invite you to review these new educational materials and share them with your colleagues, family and friends.

The fact sheets can be found on BWC’s website:

BWC’s medical director, Dr. Stephen Woods, addressed the importance of balancing short term pain management and the longer term risk of addiction in an earlier blog post

For more information, email Pharmacy.Benefits@bwc.state.oh.us.

 

1 Ohio’s Opiate Epidemic, Mental Health & Recovery Board – Erie and Ottawa Counties, Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Committee

2 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States, 2016

3, 4  2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Data: General Findings, Governor’s Cabinet Opioid Action Team

Educating and elevating the work comp industry

kendra-depaulBy Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Last week, BWC staff headed to Scottsdale, Arizona to participate in a planning session for the Annual Conference of the American Association of States Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF). AASCIF is an association of workers’ compensation state funds from 26 different states, plus 8 workers’ compensation boards in Canada.

This year the conference will be held in June in Oklahoma City.

AASCIF has 10 committees composed of workers’ compensation professionals across the United States. One of the roles of the committees is to choose session topics and find speakers to present at the annual conference.

Three BWC employees are members of AASCIF’s committees. Michael Rienerth, Ergonomics Technical Advisor is on the Safety and Health Committee. Bill Teets, Communications Director is on the Communications Committee and I am on the Enterprise Risk Management and Underwriting Committee.

I think all of us would agree that the planning sessions were engaging and insightful. Over 100 people, passionate about workers’ compensation shared their individual state fund experiences and put their heads together to plan sessions designed to educate and elevate the industry as a whole.

Here’s a sneak peak of the hot topics at the 2017 conference:

The Safety and Health Committee is planning three sessions – all of which will be in a panel discussion format to encourage sharing of successful strategies. One session will focus on emerging technologies for safety such as use of mobile apps, virtual reality, drones and collision avoidance systems. Another session will explore various approaches for addressing violence in the workplace including active shooter training and reducing combative behaviors in schools and health care settings. The third session will facilitate sharing of strategies related to communication, market segmentation, targeted campaigns, and customer loyalty and incentive programs for enhancing customer engagement.

The Communications Committee discussions were related to the support of AASCIF itself. In particular how communications can promote the desire to better identify what AASCIF is and the benefits of membership. It also discussed a number of potential sessions for June, including thought leadership, crisis communication, video storytelling and promoting AASCIF.

And the Enterprise Risk Management and Underwriting Committee will be planning sessions focused on how changing industries and workplaces will affect the way insurers underwrite and what the underwriter of 2030 may look like. In the same vein, you can expect sessions examining how technology and robotics could change the workers’ compensation world as we know it.

For us committee members, much work still needs to be done to ensure the conference will provide value and inspiration to those attending. These are all topics of great importance as the workers’ comp industry engages in a national conversation on changes necessary to improve and innovate. We were pleased to participate. If the energy in the planning meeting is any indication of the annual conference, we can expect an exciting and informative conference in June.

Keep Riding the Wave!

By Noori Butt, Technical Medical Specialist, Reimbursement and Coding Policy Department

A famous shark attack survivor once said, “I’ve learned life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what’s over the next wave… and if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.” – Bethany Hamilton

Bethany is an amputee who has proven time and time again that with a solid support system, motivation, and grit that anything can be possible. You may have seen her story in the movie, Soul Surfer (2011) 1, that highlights Hamilton’s 2003 shark attack survival and her ultimate return to a victorious professional surfing career.

Stories like Bethany’s really hit home. At BWC, the Reimbursement and Coding Policy Department works with injured worker amputees to ensure they receive quality care and services. We collaborate with managed care organizations (MCOs), prosthetic vendors and BWC staff to work toward an efficient, timely, and simplistic process for delivering prosthetic services to Ohio’s injured workers.

This collaboration has resulted in the creation of the BWC Prosthetics Workgroup. This group is tasked with the responsibility to assist in developing standards for the billing and reimbursement of prosthetic devices. Our goal is to use the standardization to create a more efficient and cost effective approach to purchasing high-end, computerized prosthetics. We hope to reduce the overall lag time from physician prescription to the time the injured worker receives his or her fitted, programmed prosthesis. Our workgroup members have gained valuable insight into the prosthetics and orthotics industry as a whole, as well as an appreciation of relevant BWC polices.

In addition to the workgroup, Medical Services recently published a Prosthetic Policy Alert. The alert was published in an effort to assist MCOs with inconsistencies related to the new Prosthetic Pricing Methodology that was implemented in the beginning of 2016. BWC worked to collect input from both MCOs and prosthetic vendors to
include in the alert. The Prosthetic Alert provides details to clarify procedures involved in dispensing of devices in an efficient and consistent manner.

We remain positive as we continue our efforts of further improving prosthetic and orthotic protocols and procedures to best serve Ohio’s injured workers.

As Hamilton enthusiastically implied in her quote – just keep riding the wave!


1
McNamara, S. (Director). (2011) Soul Surfer [film]. Hawaii, USA: Island Film Group.

Find your company’s words to live by at OSC17!

By Julie Darby-Martin, BWC Safety Congress Manager

Be Safe Ohio. That’s the motto we live by at BWC. It’s also the spirit of our 2017 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC17).

Does your organization have a motto or guiding principle when it comes to safety in your workplace? OSC17 can help you shape the character of your company’s safety and health program – its beliefs, focus and direction.

Whether you’ve been before or if this is your first visit, safety congress gives you the opportunity to:

  • Learn new information;
  • See innovative products;
  • Gather information;
  • Ask questions.

OSC17 – the largest regional safety and health conference in the U.S. – is happening March 8-10 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Best of all, attendance is FREE for Ohio employers, their employees and all individuals with an interest in occupational safety and health.

With more than 200 educational sessions, 250 exhibitors, opportunities for free continuing education and BWC program credits, you won’t want to miss this edition!

Let OSC17 help your organization find its words to live by. Pour them into your safety program and inspire others to do the same. Then, watch others begin to embrace these same principles.

Register for OSC17 today

Follow the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo on Twitter: @OhioBWC, #OSC17

Convicts stole work comp benefits from family members

BWC secures 7 fraud convictions in December

BWC investigators secured seven fraud-related convictions in December that included two cases where the convicts had stolen injured workers’ benefits from family members.

In a case in northwest Ohio, the children of a deceased claimant cashed out their father’s BWC benefits for four months following his death in 2014. Cecilia Williams, 36, of Fayette, Ohio, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. Her sentence is pending a pre-sentence investigation ordered by a Fulton County judge.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) discovered that Williams’ father had died in March 2014 but his family failed to notify BWC. The investigation found that BWC benefits continued to be deposited through July 2014 and more than $6,600 were withdrawn from ATMs over that time. Williams admitted to withdrawing the funds using her deceased father’s debit card and then providing half of the money to her brother, James Miller.

James Miller is scheduled for pre-trial on Feb. 10.

In another case involving family members, Kelly Clark, 38, of Columbus pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of theft Dec. 15 in a Franklin County courtroom for stealing an elderly relative’s BWC check.

Investigators found that Clark, who had been living with the relative, stole the check and cashed it without permission. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail, but received 30 days credited for time served and 60 days suspended as long as she pays $862 in restitution by Sept. 13, 2017.

Other December convictions include:

Muhammad Rashid of Hilliard — Lapsed Coverage
A judge found Rashid guilty of a minor misdemeanor count of failure to comply after Rashid failed to carry BWC coverage on his Youngstown area gas stations. Rashid became compliant on three gas stations, closed a fourth and paid its outstanding balance of $2,824. A judge imposed a $100 fine and court costs.

Alfonso R. Hooper of Columbus — Falsifying Wages
Hooper, 66, pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found he falsified his job search forms in order to receive non-working, wage-loss benefits from BWC. The court sentenced Hooper to 30 days in jail, suspended for one year of community control. The court also ordered Hooper to pay $5,000 investigative costs to BWC.

Scott A. Dix of Westerville — False Claim
Dix pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to one count of attempted forgery, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators determined he filed a false injured worker’s claim against his employer in order to receive BWC benefits. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was suspended as long as he pays $750 to BWC for investigative costs.

William T. Maguire of Cincinnati — Lapsed Coverage
Maguire pleaded guilty to two fifth-degree felony counts of workers’ compensation fraud Dec. 6 after BWC discovered he ran his landscaping business for at least five years without workers’ compensation coverage. He owes premiums to BWC totaling $92,447. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18 in Hamilton County.

Angelo Reillo Sr. of Garfield Heights — Working and Receiving
Reillo pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators caught him working while receiving injured workers’ benefits. Reillo paid $3,354 in restitution to BWC at the time of his guilty plea. A judge fined him $50.

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

Penn. prison stay delays work comp cheat’s Ohio conviction

tony-harn-booking-photoA Columbus man pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday after his case was delayed for two years because he was in a Pennsylvania prison for violating his probation in a separate and unrelated criminal matter.

Tony R. Harn pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of theft, both misdemeanors of the first degree, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Harn to pay $12,861 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and sentenced him to 180 days in jail on each count. The judge then suspended the jail sentence and placed Harn on two years of community control.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Harn in 2010 after learning he had filed a suspicious wage earnings statement (IRS 1099) that BWC needed to calculate his injured workers’ benefits. SID determined Harn never worked for the employer listed on the 1099, an Ohio trucking company, and that he knowingly submitted the false form to increase his BWC benefits.

Harn was indicted in Franklin County in 2013, extradited to Pennsylvania in 2014 for his prison term there and released last year.

Employer finalists embody spirit of safety innovation

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer, BWC Communications Department

safetyinnovationswebheader

We know employers all over the state are continually seeking ways to improve the safety and well-being of their employees. So to spotlight these innovative employers and their ingenuity, we sponsor the Safety Innovation Awards Program.

We created the program to recognize and reward employer ingenuity that results in risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations. Innovations can range from a newly–created piece of equipment, tool, process or method to an existing one that has been improved or used in a new or creative way.

After careful consideration of dozens of applications and visits to the sites of 10 semifinalists, we are pleased to announce the following employers as the five finalists for the 2017 Safety Innovation Awards.

Ames Arboreal Group (Columbus) – JosieBea micrograpple truck
A truck with a mechanical boom and small grapple that is used to lift tree limbs and pieces of the trunk into the trailer to eliminate the need for using a wood chipper

C&K Industrial Services, Inc. (Cleveland) – Hydroblasting robots
All-terrain, remote-controlled robots that use high-pressure water for cleaning industrial equipment and facilities, and to eliminate sustained, forceful gripping and manipulation of the spray wands

Holloway, Henderson & Martin, LLC (Pickerington) – Scaffold caddy
A custom-designed cart that was developed to eliminate the manual carrying of scaffold components into buildings

ICP Adhesives and Sealants (Norton) – Pneumatically-operated cylinder clamp
A pneumatic clamping mechanism that eliminates repetitive, manual squeezing and releasing of filling nozzle clamps when filling cylinders with product

Suburban Steel Supply Company (Gahanna) – Electric Transfer Cart
Motorized, pendant-operated carts that run on tracks through a fabrication shop to eliminate manual pushing of carts loaded with large, heavy structural steel components

The five finalists will present their innovations to a three-judge panel and the public at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2017 (OSC17) in Columbus on March 8-10.

A panel of independent judges will select the winners using a number of criteria, including risk reduction, innovation, return on investment, potential for other employers to use the innovation and presentation quality. OSC17 attendees will determine the recipient of The People’s Choice award.

We will present the awards and monetary prizes during a ceremony at Safety Congress. However, the real winners are the employees of these companies. Innovations like the ones listed above help workers stay safe and healthy, increase productivity and morale, and produce long-term cost savings.

Holidays bring convictions to 3 workers’ comp cheats

A northeast Ohio truck driver on injured workers’ benefits since 1993 is on the hook for $17,000 after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

secklerWilliam Seckler, 54, of the village of Andover in Ashtabula County, must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) $14,520 in restitution and $2,530 in investigative costs for working while receiving permanent total disability benefits. A judge also ordered Seckler to serve 180 days in jail, suspended, and four years of community control for the first-degree misdemeanor.

Seckler was employed as a full-time truck driver at the time of his injury in 1993. Acting on a tip, BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) started looking at him in 2014 and found him working as a delivery driver for an Amish roofing company.

In other news, a Columbus man was convicted for workers’ compensation fraud on Dec. 19 after falsifying his job search forms in order to receive non-working, wage-loss benefits from BWC.

alfonso-hooper-booking-photoAlfonso R. Hooper, 66, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after SID found he falsely claimed to have applied for work at more than 40 potential employers listed on his job search forms.

A Franklin County judge sentenced Hooper to 30 days in jail, suspended, and one year of community control. The judge also ordered Hooper to pay BWC $5,000 for its investigative costs.

In a court case Dec. 30, a central Ohio man was convicted for failure to comply after BWC found he was operating four gas stations in the Youngstown area with lapsed workers’ compensation policies.

A judge in Niles Municipal Court convicted Muhammad Rashid, 36, of Hilliard, Ohio, on a minor misdemeanor count of failure to comply and fined Rashid $100 and court costs.

Rashid worked with BWC to become compliant with three policies, but not on the fourth. Rashid later filed paperwork with BWC stating he closed that business and paid the outstanding balance due of $2,824.

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