Workers’ Comp: Adapt or fall behind

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

I had the opportunity to attend the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) 2017 Annual Issues Symposium earlier this month. NCCI presents a word that describes the industry as a whole and sets the tone for the conference each year. That word this year was “adapting.”

As Bill Donnell, president and chief executive officer for NCCI, kicked off the conference, he explained how important it is for workers’ compensation to stay relevant in a world that is consistently changing. He provided Blockbuster Video as an example of a company that failed because they did not see the changes coming and adjust to keep up with the times.

As technology was moving towards streaming television and videos, Blockbuster Video did not anticipate how these changes were going to affect them and actually turned down an opportunity to purchase Netflix. This inability to see the writing on the wall contributed to their ultimate demise.

The theme that resonated throughout the conference is that we as an industry cannot afford to get stuck where we are. If we want to continue to be successful in serving our customers, we have to continue to adapt. Bill believes the industry has the capacity and talent to weave the changing technology into our everyday activities and predicted continued growth and development well into the future.

Reflecting on this need to adapt, I began to think about all the things BWC is doing to adapt and ensure our customers are getting the services they desire. The first thing that came to mind is the initiative to update BWC’s website to make it more user friendly. BWC’s website has A LOT of good information. But in a time when attention spans are getting shorter by the day, no one wants to comb through piles of information to find what they need.

Our customers want us to know what they need and put it front and center on the website so that they can find it quickly. I know the Administrator is particularly excited about the new website and the ability to provide information to customers in the way they desire. There is talk about a mobile app, push notification and other needed updates. I know I pay my bills, check into flights and generally manage my life from my mobile phone so I am excited to see how the new web changes will streamline and simplify interactions for our customers.

I am also excited about BWC’s recent announcement to invest $6 million for a new health and wellness program for small Ohio employers. We only get one body to live in, so investing in our health is essential to a happy and healthy life.  In addition, the research continues to show that employees who get injured are much more likely to have positive outcomes and return to work if they are healthy pre-injury.  Investing in Ohio’s workforce wellness is another great example of how BWC is adapting to serve its customers.

Internally, we have recently launched the Nimble and Agile workgroup to continue discussions on what we can do to stay relevant and adapt with the changing world. The workgroup is working on crisis management planning to ensure BWC resources are ready in the event of a policyholder crisis. They are also exploring ways to foster innovation and encourage staff to collaborate on improvements. Finally, they are planning the launch of a new internal wellness program to encourage BWC staff to strive for wellness of mind, body and spirit.

“Adapting” is an appropriate word to describe the workers’ comp industry. I’m pleased my employer recognizes and understands the importance of the word. We’ll continue to work toward a more flexible system ready to adjust to our customers’ changing needs.

I look forward to hearing next year’s word. No matter what it is, I suspect Ohio will be well prepared to meet whatever challenge it presents.

Fraud conviction costs construction worker $16K

A Jackson County man owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $16,000 after pleading guilty to fraud Wednesday in a Franklin County courtroom.

Daniel McClellan, 36, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators found him working multiple jobs while collecting temporary disability benefits for a workplace injury he suffered as a roofer in 2009. A judge ordered McClellan to pay BWC $11,875 in restitution and $4,000 for the cost of its investigation.

“Mr. McClellan was not supposed to be working and earning income while receiving these benefits, but we discovered he had been working in construction and other trades as far back as 2012,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department.

McClellan, who lives in the village of Coalton 70 miles southeast of Columbus, was also sentenced to a year of community control in lieu of six months in jail.

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

Are you keeping current with electrical safety?

May is National Electrical Safety Month

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Electricity is something we take for granted. Whether it’s brewing our first cup of coffee in the morning, charging our phone or lighting our home, we rely on it and rarely stop to think about where it comes from. Unfortunately, we can easily overlook the hazards it can pose as well.

Each year, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month to remind the public of these hazards with the goal of reducing electrically-related fatalities, injuries and property loss.

This year’s theme is “Decoding the National Electrical Code® (NEC) to Prevent Shock and Electrocution.” All 50 states have adopted the NEC, also referred to as the NFPA 70, as the standard for safe electrical installation, inspection and use to protect people and property from avoidable electrical hazards at home and in the workplace. As part of this year’s campaign, the ESFI has created the following infographics.

Electrical safety and the workplace
The most-recent EFSI data indicate there were 2,480 nonfatal workplace electrical injuries resulting in days away from work in 2015, the highest level since 2009. Additionally, 134 work-related electrical fatalities occurred in 2015. The highest rate of fatal electrical injury occurred in the utility industry, followed closely by the construction industry.

We’re here to help you identify hazards and reduce the risk of electrical injuries and fatalities in your workplace with our free consulting services. Our library also offers numerous resources on this topic and we have two training courses scheduled in June in our Canton customer service office (see descriptions below).

Electrical Basics (half-day course)
This course is for workers who work with or are exposed to electrical hazards in the workplace as well as employees responsible for safety programs at their facilities including administrators, supervisors, safety coordinators, safety teams and frontline workers. It covers:

  • The components of an electrical safe work practice program;
  • Strategies and tools for developing a written electrical safe work practice program;
  • OSHA compliance issues relevant to electrical safe work practices.

Electrical Hazard Recognition and Abatement (multi-day course)
This course is for individuals responsible for electrical safety, including safety and maintenance personnel, engineers and others who need to improve their hazard recognition skills. The course focuses on hazard recognition rather than design or engineering, and participants do not need a background in electricity. It covers:

  • Electrical hazard recognition and fundamentals from a safety perspective;
  • Basic physical laws that control electrical actions;
  • Effects of electrical shock on the human body;
  • Recognition and prevention of the four kinds of electrical hazards – shocks, burns, explosions and fires;
  • Grounding concepts, including equipment ground, ground fault circuit interrupters and system grounding;
  • OSHA, NEC and Ohio Administrative Code regulations and their application.

To register for these classes or any of our other course offerings, visit the BWC Learning Center.

Construction worker’s fraud scheme collapses

A Marion man who claimed to be permanently disabled owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) $160,000 after pleading guilty Wednesday to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

Appearing in a Franklin County courtroom, Jimmie Rankin, 45, was also sentenced to five years of community control for collecting BWC benefits after he had gone back to work in the construction industry and deliberately withheld that information from BWC.

“We found Mr. Rankin working as a subcontractor and getting paid with cash and checks made out to other people so he could avoid a paper trail and stay beneath our radar,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “But thanks in part to tips from honest citizens, we were able to stop this fraud and bring Mr. Rankin to justice.”

Working with Rankin’s employers, investigators determined Rankin had been employed at least since March 2011, a little more than three years after his workplace injury and while he was collecting temporary disability benefits. He later secured permanent total disability benefits from BWC and, while working, collected those benefits from June 2012 to May 2016.

A judged warned Rankin that if he violates the terms of his community control, he would serve 18 months in prison.

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

Cincinnati tax preparer convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Cincinnati-area man who claimed to be permanently disabled from work while earning more than $100,000 preparing tax returns owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $57,000 in restitution.

A judge ordered Fernando Cruz, of Maineville in Warren County, to pay BWC $2,000 up front, followed by payments of at least $150 a month, according to his May 12 sentence on a fifth-degree felony conviction for workers’ compensation fraud.

“Mr. Cruz was supposed to be permanently and totally disabled from work, but we found evidence that he was working as a tax preparer from at least January 2011 through December 2014,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at a desk crunching numbers or spreading asphalt in the hot July sun — if you’re working and earning income, in this case more than $100,000, you’re not permanently disabled and you’re not entitled to BWC benefits.”

Cruz, 68, owes BWC $56,705. A Franklin County judge sentenced him to five years of community control and warned him that he will serve 11 months in jail if he violates the conditions of his control. She also ordered Cruz to return to court Sept. 7 with a financial statement indicating his ability to pay.

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

We took a STAND-Down to prevent falls

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Some highly-skilled instructors and one dummy helped drive home the importance of proper fall protection training and equipment at a Safety Stand-Down event we hosted last Friday.

A packed house attended the free training led by experts from Honeywell Safety Products at our Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health in Pickerington. The event, held in conjunction with the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, was a huge success.

Mark Cangemi, a trainer with Honeywell Safety Products, started with an informative presentation highlighting OSHA’s rule updates to walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements.

He stressed that the key to fall prevention is the elimination of hazards, citing the mantra of:

– Eliminating hazards at the outset;
– Administrative controls;
– Personal protective equipment (PPE).

He reiterated that PPE is actually the last line of defense for fall prevention, and said, “Just using the equipment is not enough to save your life; you must also use it correctly.”

After the classroom portion of the training, attendees moved outdoors for a demonstration of falls with or without fall-arrest systems.

The demonstration, led by Cangemi and Honeywell’s Dave Gallegly, used a weighted dummy to show realistic re-enactments under various conditions.

Cangemi also demonstrated how to properly don body a body harness and what to do after a fall but before being rescued.

Earlier in the week, our Youngstown Customer Service Office staff worked with Boak & Sons, Inc. to have a Safety Stand-Down event in the Youngstown area. Boak & Sons hosted the event in its large warehouse complete with needed equipment, set-up and refreshments for 101 attendees from 31 companies.

  

Representatives from RETTEW of Lancaster, Pennsylvania provided the training. The 60-minute high-intensity training started at 7:30 a.m. to allow workers to attend before going to work. It covered the principles of fall prevention, fall protection and fall rescue.

BWC actively participated in numerous stand-down events across Ohio last week, including joining the Ohio Department of Transportation for stand-downs at four major highway bridge construction sites around the state. Work paused at these sites to discuss safety and fall protection with staff. We also participated in seven events in the Cincinnati area that totaled 600 employees, including 200 at one event alone.

Additionally, many safety councils got into the act by addressing fall prevention at their April meetings.  Eighteen councils in the Canton/Cambridge area are participating in a “safety council challenge” to see which one has the largest percentage of its members holding their own Stand-Down events during the month of May.

Stand-Down events like these are critical for stemming the tide of falls in the workplace. Cangemi reminded attendees at the Pickerington event that from 1992 to 2016 there were approximately two fatalities a day from workplace falls in the U.S; in 2016 there were 800 fatalities from workplace falls.

Nearly 30 percent of all claims filed with BWC are from fall injuries, and falls in Ohio result in an average of 14 fatalities a year. The majority of these incidents were preventable through awareness, training and proper use of equipment.

Want to see more from Safety Stand-Down events around the country? Check out this Twitter storify link.

BWC nurses help provide quality, holistic care for Ohio’s injured workers

By Mary Charney, BWC Director of Nursing

Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit. That’s the theme for National Nurses Week that runs this week until Friday, May 12. This year’s holistic theme also reflects BWC’s approach to caring for Ohio’s injured workers.

BWC’s 58 nurses work in a variety of areas, from medical policy and employee health to rehabilitation, claims management and clinical advisement.

They help Ohio’s injured workers and each of us remember to balance our lives — our mind, body and spirit — for total wellness.

National Nurses Week is a good time for all of us to appreciate nurses and thank them for what they do. Take time to remember the last time you talked with a nurse and how that nurse helped you. Nurses make a difference in our health care journey throughout life.

Nursing is the largest of all health care professions, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA), which declared 2017 to be the Year of the Healthy Nurse. Accordingly, the association is encouraging nurses to be healthy role models for the rest of us.

In its Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge, the ANA states thatNurses, at 3.6 million strong and the most trusted profession, have the power to make a difference! By choosing nutritious foods and an active lifestyle, managing stress, living tobacco-free, getting preventive immunizations and screenings, and choosing protective measures such as wearing sunscreen and bicycle helmets, nurses can set an example on how to BE healthy.”

For more information on National Nurses Week, visit the American Nursing Association’s National Nurses’ Week website. Again, thank you to our nurses!

Take the time to thank those who keep us safe

By Abe Al-Tarawneh, Ph.D., Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

Tomorrow is Occupational Safety and Health Professional (OSHP) Day. It’s an opportunity to recognize the contributions of the men and women who help us go home safe from work at the end of each day.

The American Society of Safety Engineers established OSHP Day in 2006 to encourage employers, co-workers and the general public to say thanks for the life-saving efforts of occupational safety and health professionals across the globe. OSHP Day is always on the Wednesday of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH), which takes place from May 7 to 13 this year.

As the leader of BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene, I’d like to thank all of the safety and health professionals for their contributions in keeping Ohio’s workforce, workplaces and communities safe. I’d like to thank all of our safety and health professionals at BWC, and say how humbled I am to work with these dedicated individuals day in and day out. Their professionalism and dedication to keeping Ohio’s workplaces safe and healthy is truly inspiring, and I thank them for their service to our state.

Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to providing world-class safety services and programs for Ohio’s workforce and employers. Through these safety programs and services, BWC plays a vital role in helping Ohio outpace the rest of the nation in reducing workplace injuries.

Between calendar years 2010 and 2014, injury rates per 100 employees among private sector employees decreased 16.7 percent in the BWC system. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses showed the rest of the nation experienced an 8.6 percent drop over this same time period. Our system also experienced an additional 4-percent drop in injuries in 2015 alone.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to get in touch with us and discover what I already know: our team of top-notch safety and health professionals is one of the best you’ll find.

Federal prisoner adds workers’ comp fraud to record

Cleveland-area man held job while receiving disability benefits

A Cleveland-area man serving time in a federal prison on corruption charges added workers’ compensation fraud to his rap sheet Monday when he pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony in a Franklin County courtroom.

A judge sentenced James Todt, 50, of Brecksville, to nine months in prison, to be served concurrently with the 30-month prison term he received last fall for a scheme involving cash bribes and kickbacks when he worked for a Cleveland-based nonprofit housing agency.

“We don’t let anyone slide on workers’ compensation fraud, even if they’re already in prison,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “We will bring them to court to face justice, and we will pursue any funds they fraudulently received.”

BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Todt in July 2015 after a crossmatch with the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services revealed he was employed while concurrently receiving disability benefits from BWC. The investigation revealed that Todt was working for a construction company while claiming to be disabled and unable to work. He was found to have fraudulently received $33,400 from BWC.

Todt is scheduled to be released in April 2019 from a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was sentenced last October after pleading guilty in June to conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of theft concerning federal funds. Todt admitted to steering construction contracts to two businesses in exchange for bribes and kickbacks while he worked at Cleveland Housing Network, an umbrella nonprofit made up of 15 community development corporations.

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

Social networking site reveals work’ comp’ cheater

Health care worker caught working while receiving injured worker benefits

Most professionals use LinkedIn to showcase their experience, stay connected in the business community and perhaps land that dream job one day.

For Kandice M. Klink Jones of Columbus, it didn’t work out so well.

Instead, her LinkedIn profile tipped off her employer that she was working when she was supposed to be off work due to a workplace injury, an injury that was costing the employer thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation benefits. The employer asked the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to investigate, and now, following her guilty plea Monday, Jones has a felony record and a bill for $12,938 owed to her old employer, American Nursing Care Inc.

“Our investigation revealed Jones was gainfully employed with four different employers, doing the same or similar job duties as when she was injured,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “The evidence we obtained confirmed she intentionally misrepresented and withheld this information in order to collect benefits she would not otherwise have been entitled to.”

Besides ordering restitution, a Franklin County judge sentenced Jones, 46, to a year in jail, which she then suspended in lieu of five years of community control.

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