Employers sing praises of safety council rebates

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

It pays to be an active member of your local safety council – literally.

Employers who are part of BWC’s Safety Council Rebate Program can earn up to a 4-percent annual rebate on their workers’ compensation premium by fulfilling certain attendance and performance goals.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, almost 5,000 Ohio employers fulfilled the eligibility requirements necessary to earn that rebate and received a combined $9.6 million dollars for their efforts.

I recently asked safety council sponsors with the highest employer rebate earnings what impact this savings has on their members and the community. Needless to say, they are very pleased!

Licking County Safety Council Manager Brittany Misner says, “Savings earned will allow our local employers the opportunity to invest in more efficient and safe equipment, workplace wellness programs and safety education/training.” Member Valerie Spanovich – human resources manager at Star Wipers –reports her company always takes away valuable information from the monthly meetings. She adds, “To be able to do that and earn a rebate is a great advantage for us.”

Michele Blaney, manager of the Capital Area Safety Council, knows many members have used their rebate or the scholarships their local program offers to improve their safety culture. Some examples include providing training they may not have thought could fit in the budget without the incentives, or bringing additional safety team members to safety council meetings to increase engagement.

Kathy Kellums, manager of the Cleveland Southwest Safety Council queried her members and received these positive responses:

AmeriMark Direct – The rebate is significant and fuels interest in remaining actively involved;

Quadax – The rebate allows them to send more of their employees to the meetings; being selected to attend is a valuable motivational tool for employees.

Greater Cleveland Safety Council Manager Tom Rabe states, “The rebate program has truly increased the number of active members who benefit from safety awareness and the monetary incentives are important to all organizations.”

“The impact on employers: I would say it is significant,” cites Black Swamp Safety Council Manager Mari Yoder.  “Area employers are struggling to meet their profit margins and to remain competitive.  Employee costs play a significant role and lost time due to health/ accidents are a major concern. These rebates often allow businesses the opportunity to invest in equipment and training to ensure workers can remain as productive as possible.”

safety council picShe concludes by saying, “Attendance at our meetings shows the importance of both the discounts received and the desire to stay educated to help keep workplaces safe and employees productive.”

This is the very reason BWC sponsors this one-of-a-kind program! See our safety councils listing to find information about a safety council near you.

Ohio prescription drug monitoring program showing positive outcomes

By Nick Trego, BWC Clinical Operations Manager

Established in 2006, the Ohio Automated RX Reporting System (OARRS) is Ohio’s state wide prescription drug monitoring program. OARRS collects information on all controlled substance prescriptions written by Ohio licensed prescribers and dispensed by pharmacies across the state.

The OARRS data base can be accessed by pharmacists, prescribers and law enforcement. Pharmacists use the database to review all controlled substance prescriptions being taken by a patient. OARRS allows the pharmacist to see the details of those prescriptions for an individual patient.

Prescribers access the database to ensure the appropriate treatment for patients and to assess compliance with prescribed medication regimens.

Law enforcement officials can review OARRS reports when legal issues emerge surrounding controlled substance use.

The OARRS database promotes the use of best practices when prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines and other medications that can have dangerous side effects if used inappropriately.

A recent report published by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy on opioid prescribing between 2012 and 2016 shows encouraging outcomes including:

  • 4% (162 million dose) decrease in the total number of opioids doses dispensed
  • 20% (2.5 million) decrease in number of opioid prescriptions
  • 5% (43 million) decrease in the total number of benzodiazepine doses dispensed
  • 2% decrease in the number of individuals who see multiple prescribers to obtain controlled substances illicitly (“doctor shopping”)
  • 11 million requests for OARRS reports in 2016

Ohio BWC statistics, likewise, show a decline in opioid prescribing over the same time period. During this period BWC has encouraged the use of best clinical practice guidelines and a state of the art closed formulary to provide medication management. Ohio BWC is the first state agency to establish a prior authorization (PA) process where clinical nursing staff reviews each medication request. The successes of the closed formulary, best practice guidelines and clinical nursing staff PA processes are listed below:

  • 5% decrease in opioid doses achieved by BWC
  • With less than 1% of the opioids receiving population in Ohio, BWC accounted for 9% of the reported decline in doses dispensed

These statistics leave no doubt that the OARRS database is having a positive influence on prescribing and dispensing controlled substances. Increased safety to patients in the state of Ohio and reducing the chances for opioid/benzodiazepine abuse and misuse are valuable benefits provided by OARRS.

Dayton claims rep is BWC’s Fraud Finder of the Year

A claims service specialist (CSS) in the Dayton service office received the 2016 Fraud Finder of the Year award Jan. 26 from BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID).

The CSS received the award for alerting SID to a case in which an injured worker claimed to be wheelchair bound and unable to ambulate. Surveillance video in SID’s subsequent investigation, however, showed the claimant shopping, going to the movies and climbing steps at a football game, all without a wheelchair or assistance of any kind.

“Thanks to this CSS’s vigilance and timely referral, we were able to stop fraud in its tracks and save the BWC system tens of thousands of dollars, if not more,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “Our success in uncovering fraud protects scarce resources needed to create safe workplaces in Ohio and to take care of those who are legitimately injured on the job.”

The CSS, who handles permanent total disability cases, said she was delighted to receive the award.

“I was surprised,” she said. “It makes you feel good to be recognized.”

SID received 2,700 allegations of fraud in 2016, with about a fourth of those coming from BWC personnel around the state — claims representatives and others who suspect illicit behavior on the part of injured workers, employers, health care providers or others connected to the BWC system.

To show their appreciation, SID leaders conducted a thank-you tour from November through mid-February, presenting Fraud Finder Award certificates to CSSs in customer service offices across Ohio.

“We encourage all BWC employees to contact us immediately if they suspect fraudulent behavior in our system, even the slightest hint of it,” said Director Wernecke. “We will conduct a thorough investigation, and the sooner we get started, the better.”

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

Foul! Bowling coach crosses the line, commits work comp fraud

A Marion man who was injured on the job as an emergency medical technician in 2010 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Tuesday after investigators discovered him working as a high school bowling coach.

After Jason Neagles, 43, pleaded guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor charge, a Franklin County judge ordered him to pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) $1,587 for the cost of the agency’s investigation. He warned Neagles to pay BWC within 90 days or face 90 days in jail.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department found a database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services indicating Neagles earned wages during periods he also collected temporary total disability benefits from BWC. The subsequent investigation proved Neagles worked as a bowling coach for Ridgedale High School in Marion.

BWC collected $14,697 in restitution prior to Neagles’ sentencing.

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

Celebrate awards season with Safety & Hygiene’s 1947 “Oscar” Winner!

By Amelia Klein, BWC Librarian

While you may be heading to theaters for a last chance to see this year’s Oscar hopefuls, the BWC Library decided to go back in time to celebrate the Division of Safety & Hygiene’s (DSH’s) very own award-winning film, “Men Who Come Back.”

First, a little history: In 1937, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and the Motion Picture Association of America formed the Film Safety Awards Committee. The goal of the committee was to further the theatrical production of highway safety films. In 1943, the award’s scope expanded to include non-theatrical motion pictures and slide films in the categories of home, occupational and general safety. Renamed the National Committee on Films for Safety in 1945, the committee judges included:

  • The National Safety Council;
  • The American Red Cross;
  • The American Society of Safety Engineers;
  • The National Fire Protection Association;
  • As well as representatives from the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy.

In 1947, for the Best Non-Theatrical Motion Picture in the Industrial Safety Field, the winner was … “Men Who Come Back.” Our very own DSH created it and filmed it in Ohio industries! Beginning with statistics on workers’ compensation claims in Ohio, the film shows how men and women can work safely and return home to their families every day. Highlights include setting machine guards, the dangers of not wearing eye protection, eating a well-balanced lunch and the safety of women welders.

Speaking at the celebratory banquet on May 14, 1947, National Safety Council President Ned H. Dearborn gave “a stirring inspirational address on safety, with emphasis on the accident situation in the occupational field” calling for “support for the various agencies whose services are devoted to accident prevention work.” He then paid tribute to the Industrial Commission of Ohio’s DSH before presenting the award to Ohio Gov. Thomas J. Herbert “to the vociferous acclaim of the audience.” Gov. Herbert echoed the call to support safety organizations stating, “Ohio will intensify safety education in all fields to the end that our people shall have the benefit of every possible safeguard at home, at work and on the highway” before congratulating DSH for winning such recognition and high praise.

nsc-trophyOur bronze “Oscar” is still on display in our Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health museum.

You can find the article detailing the award ceremony as printed in the June 1947 edition of the Ohio Industrial Commission Monitor here.

To preserve this award-winning film for future generations, the BWC Library has recently digitized its 16mm copy.

Written and directed by H.F. Hillebrandt with photography by V.R. McQuilkin, here is “Men Who Come Back.

Note: A small portion of the beginning is missing from this digitized version of the film.

BWC secures 13 fraud convictions in January

Work comp cheats owe more than $66K

BWC is owed more than $66,000 in restitution from claimants and employers who were convicted and sentenced in January on fraud-related charges.

That total will likely grow, as three of the 13 claimants convicted last month still await sentencing.

“Workers’ comp cheats raise the costs for everyone else in the system,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The money we recoup from these cases will go where it rightfully belongs — caring for those who are legitimately injured on the job and creating safe workplaces across Ohio.”

Those convicted include:

Ruth Shelhart-Holleran of Hilliard, Ohio — Working and Receiving
BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Shelhart-Holleran was working while receiving BWC benefits after finding her name in a cross match with the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services. Shelhart-Holleran pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A judge set restitution at $8,366.

Edgardo Ocasio of Cleveland, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Acting on a tip, investigators found Ocasio working as a mechanic while receiving BWC benefits. Ocasio pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was ordered to pay $2,522 in restitution. Additionally, he was sentenced to a three-month suspended jail sentence and put on community control for three years.

Robert Beasley of Cleveland, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Beasley must pay $7,065 in restitution after pleading guilty Jan. 26 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A Franklin County judge also sentenced Beasley to three years of community control after suspending a 180-day jail sentence. Investigators found Beasley working as a cleaner while receiving BWC benefits.

Brenda Fletcher of Delaware, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Undercover investigators found Fletcher working as a bartender while receiving BWC benefits. Fletcher was found guilty Jan. 18 by a jury in Delaware County on one count each of workers’ compensation fraud and theft, both fourth-degree felonies. Fletcher is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.

Roland Samons, dba Shafer Brothers Body Shop, of Ironton, Ohio — Lapsed Coverage
Samons pleaded guilty Jan. 18 in Lawrence County to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after failing to establish a payment plan for unpaid BWC premiums. He was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail sentence and placed on probation for three years. He was ordered to pay $5,687 in restitution.

Andrea Menendez, dba Spring Clean Maids, of Warren, Ohio — Lapsed Coverage
Menendez pleaded guilty Jan. 12 in Warren Municipal Court to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, for failing to pay premiums owed to BWC. She was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay court costs and to bring her company into BWC compliance. She paid $1,000 toward her past-due balance of $3,884.

Tony Harn of Columbus, Ohio — Falsified Wages
Investigators started looking at Harn after learning he had filed a suspicious wage earnings statement with BWC, a document needed to calculate his injured workers’ benefits. Harn pleaded guilty Jan. 9 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of theft, both misdemeanors of the first degree. A judge ordered Harn to pay $12,861 in restitution 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.

William Seckler of Andover Village, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Investigators found Seckler working as a delivery driver for an Amish roofing company while receiving BWC benefits. Seckler must pay BWC $14,520 in restitution and $2,530 in investigative costs after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Jan. 3 in Franklin County. A judge also ordered Seckler to serve 180 days in jail, suspended, and four years of community control for his crime, a first-degree misdemeanor.

BWC research seeks better strategies for workplace injury prevention, injured worker care

We’ve written before about our efforts to collaborate on research into a number of issues that impact the entire workers’ compensation industry. BWC is the sole provider of workers’ compensation insurance coverage in the state, meaning we have a comprehensive set of data that can offer insight into how the industry can reduce workplace injuries and improve care for those who are hurt on the job.

Another study was recently released that examines how best to utilize workers’ comp data to monitor and prevent injuries in the private sector.  Dr. Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent of BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene, contributed to the study, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We invite you to review an abstract of the study – Development of Methods for Using Workers’ Compensation Data for Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries Among State-Insured Private Employers in Ohiohere.

We hope our participation in research projects like this will contribute to the development of solutions that can be used right here in Ohio, and by our counterparts across the country.

Limo driver takes work comp system for a ride, now owes BWC $80,000

robert-willie-jr-booking-photoA former school bus driver caught working as a limousine driver while receiving injured workers’ benefits must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $80,000 and serve five years probation.

“Thanks to responsible citizens who report fraud, we were able to stop a workers’ comp cheat and return BWC dollars to their rightful purpose — creating safer workplaces across Ohio and helping workers who are legitimately injured on the job,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison.

Robert Willie, Jr., 57, of Columbus, pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. In addition to restitution and probation, a judge warned Willie that he would serve six months in jail if he violated the terms of his probation.

Willie started collecting BWC benefits in 2010 after getting injured while working as a school bus driver. Acting on an anonymous tip to the BWC Fraud Hotline, BWC’s Special Investigations Department reviewed bank and employment records and found Willie had worked off and on for much of the time between March 2010 and May 2015, all while collecting BWC benefits. Willie worked as a limousine driver and office clerk for a Columbus company.

A photo of Willie can be found here.

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

Lapsed coverage leads to court convictions for two Ohio employers

A southern Ohio body shop owner must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $6,000 for not carrying workers’ compensation coverage while running his business.

Ironton resident Roland Samons, owner of the Shafer Brothers Body Shop, pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A Lawrence County judge sentenced Samons to six months in jail before suspending the sentence and placing Samons on three years probation. Probation will terminate sooner once Samons pays BWC $5,686 in restitution.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) determined Samons failed to carry proper coverage from January 2010 through December 2014.

In another recent court case, the owner of a cleaning service company in northeast Ohio must pay BWC nearly $4,000 to bring her BWC policy into compliance after pleading guilty Jan. 12 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply.

A Warren Municipal Court judge also sentenced Andrea Menendez, who with her husband owns Spring Clean Maids, to three years probation. At sentencing, Menendez provided documentation showing she had already paid $1,000 toward her BWC debt of $3,884.

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