We’ll see you at the Ohio State Fair!

Stop by the BWC booth when you’re there

Hello from day one of the 2017 Ohio State Fair!

We’re glad to be part of this traditionally significant event for Ohio residents and one of the largest state fairs in the nation when it comes to attendance.

From our spot in the Bricker Marketplace – booth 705 to be exact – we’ve had a great time meeting fairgoers both young and old to share our message of being safe on and off the clock. Our Division of Safety and Hygiene developed the theme Safe at Work, Safe at Home to highlight common hazards found at the workplace and around the house.

During the next few weeks we’ll bring awareness of these hazards to attendees and give them resources to help make their homes and workplaces safer. We’ll also be promoting our safety services and encouraging workers to partner with us to make Ohio a safer place to live and work.

If you’re hitting the fairgrounds for the rides and games, to see exhibits and to chow down on the famous food offerings, take a minute to stop by and say hello. While you’re there, play a round of Safety Plinko and pick up a copy of our informational handout. It provides basic information on hazards both in and out of the workplace, including:

  • Electrical safety;
  • Biological hazards;
  • Yardwork safety;
  • Chemical safety;
  • Heat stress;
  • Roof safety;
  • Personal protective equipment.

Remember, safety doesn’t clock out. We hope to see you there!

We’re looking for a few great innovators

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Has your organization developed a new piece of equipment, tool or process to reduce risk to your workforce? Have you made changes to an existing method to improve safety and health in your workplace?  If so, you could earn a cash prize for your ingenuity by applying for a BWC Safety Innovation Award.

The application period for our 2018 Safety Innovation Awards is now open. We don’t consider whether the innovation is high-tech, low-tech or no-tech. We’re simply seeking solutions that reduce risk, create cost savings, and that have potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations.

If you are an Ohio employer – or know one – that has taken an innovative step to reduce risk of injury or illness, check out the award criteria and application.

We’re accepting applications until Sept. 30, 2017. Five finalists will receive cash awards, ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 and statewide recognition at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 7 to 9, 2018.

Last year’s finalists included innovations such as hydroblasting robots, a scaffold caddy and a pneumatically-operated cylinder clamp. You can check out descriptions and videos of all the finalists’ innovations here.

We hope seeing the past finalists and their ideas will inspire you to apply for the 2018 awards. If you have any questions about the program, email bwcsafetyinnovations@bwc.state.oh.us or call 1-800-644-6292.

We look forward to seeing your innovative approaches to eliminating workplace risks and hazards!

Cheating BWC proves costly to workers, business owners

A North Canton woman convicted in May of workers compensation fraud must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $22,000 for collecting benefits while working as a home health aide for nearly two years.

A Franklin County judge on Wednesday also sentenced Diana S. Herrick to five years probation in lieu of an eight-month jail sentence for committing the fifth-degree felony. BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) found Herrick provided numerous activities for two individuals while claiming to be too injured to work, including household chores, meal preparation, cleaning and shopping.

“I cannot stress this message enough: Cheating BWC will only cost you more in the long run,” said SID director Jim Wernecke. “It could land you a significant financial debt and criminal record, as well as damage to your reputation and potential for future employment.”

Also this week, the owner of a Columbus security business pleaded guilty to failure to comply with workers’ compensation laws, a second-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found he under-reported his payroll for four years in order to pay less in BWC premiums. A Franklin County judge on Monday ordered Tyrone Bonner of Dayton to pay BWC $9,527 in restitution.

On the same day in a different Franklin County courtroom, Michael Strickland of Sandusky County pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him delivering mail while collecting injured-worker benefits. He paid BWC $5,096 in restitution prior to his court appearance.

In other news, SID reported closing several criminal cases in June and one in May not previously publicized.

  • Ghandi Faraj of Lorain pleaded guilty June 30 to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him operating a Quizno’s restaurant without BWC coverage when one of his employees filed a claim for a workplace injury. A judge sentenced Faraj to two years of non-reporting probation and ordered him to pay BWC $10,487 in restitution and stay compliant with workers’ comp requirements.
  • Darrin Armstrong of Cincinnati pleaded guilty June 15 to a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge after SID found him using his wife’s BWC debit card multiple times after her death. The investigation found 62 transactions between December 2015 and February 2016 totaling over $4,400. A Hamilton County judge placed Armstrong on eleven months probation and ordered him to reimburse BWC $2,715.
  • Latoria Johnson of Columbus pleaded guilty on June 27 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found her working at Worldwide Marketing, Hot Topic and Kroger while simultaneously collecting temporary total disability benefits. She reimbursed BWC $5,307.27 prior to sentencing.
  • Cindi Hackney of Columbus pleaded guilty June 13 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her pizza restaurant without BWC coverage. She was ordered to pay a fine and court costs totaling $163. She also paid approximately $5,000 toward her BWC debt.
  • Richard Allison of Columbus pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found him working for five separate employers over 13 months while collecting BWC benefits. A judge on June 6 sentenced Allison to five years probation in lieu of a six-month jail term and ordered him to pay $5,149 in restitution to BWC.
  • Mohamad Awad of Toledo, doing business as Everlasting LLC, paid almost $1,000 toward his BWC balance before pleading guilty June 5 in a Toledo courtroom to failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. BWC agents had previously made multiple attempts to bring Awad into workers’ compensation compliance but were unsuccessful.
  • Steve Makris of Canton paid BWC $23,943 in restitution after pleading guilty May 26 to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud. Investigators found Makris formed a new business, Eagle Industrial Painting, and collected a salary while receiving benefits from BWC.

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

Safety council’s busy spring season!

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

The spring of each year is always a busy season for Ohio’s safety council programs, and this year was no exception.

Ohio’s 82 safety councils collect semi-annual accident statistics from members to recognize them for their accomplishments in safety.

Certificates of recognition are then presented at monthly safety council meetings in March, April and May. The Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council is pictured above.

BWC presented more than 5,000 certificates statewide to recognize employers for their efforts in preventing occupational injuries. Employers can earn one of four awards:

Group – presented to the company with the lowest incident rate in its type of work in the local community;

100% – presented to any company that works the entire year without an incident resulting in a day or more away from work;

Achievement – presented to any company that reduces its incident rate by at least 25 percent from one year to the next;

Special – presented to any company that works over six months and over 500,000 hours without an incident resulting in a day or more from work.

At the Logan County Area Safety Council meeting, I presented multiple awards to representatives of Honda Transmission Manufacturing.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Members of the Columbiana Area Safety Council pose with their certificates below.

The recognition certificates presented reflect countless hours of effort and dedication to creating and maintaining safe workplaces in Ohio. All Ohio employers enrolled and actively participating in an Ohio safety council are to be commended for their efforts.

Each year on the first Monday in May, Ohio’s safety council sponsors and leaders meet in Central Ohio to hear program updates, network with one another and share best practices in safety council program management.


At this year’s conference, BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison (above) and Division of Safety & Hygiene Superintendent Abe Tarawneh (left) both shared timely updates on the importance of safety in managing workers’ compensation costs and BWC’s continuing emphasis and investment in safety in Ohio.

One of the most popular activities of each year’s conference is the speed networking, which allows participants to meet a variety of representatives from other safety councils to discuss trends, challenges and solutions for creating and maintaining successful safety council programs.

Finally, at each year’s Safety Council Leaders Conference, the four safety councils are recognized as the highest achieving programs in the state with Safety Council of the Year awards.

Administrator Morrison presented the Grand Award for first place to the Summit County Safety Council.

Ross County Safety Council, sponsored by the Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce, took home the second place award.

In third place was the Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council, sponsored by the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Earning the fourth place award was the Ashtabula County Safety Council. (Left)  

Five additional safety councils earned an honorable mention, including:

Stark County Safety Council, Portage County Safety Council, Orrville Area Safety Council, Ottawa County Safety Council and Sandusky County Safety Council.

Responsible for the programming for this year’s conference were committee members Briana Hood, Dessie Rogers, Mike Thompson, and Deb Katzenmeyer.

Get involved in the excitement of the Ohio Safety Council program and enroll today!

Former police officer indicted on work comp fraud and other charges related to shooting incident

A former Ohio police officer is facing multiple charges, including inducing panic, forgery and workers’ compensation fraud, after claiming and later recanting that he was shot in the arm during a traffic stop, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced this week.

A Tuscarawas County grand jury indicted Bryan Eubanks, 37, of Cumberland, Ohio, on June 29. It charged the fired 14-year veteran of the Newcomerstown Police Department with the following:

  • One count of inducing panic, a felony of the fifth degree;
  • One count of making false alarms, a felony of the fifth degree;
  • Two counts of tampering with evidence, felonies of the third degree;
  • One count of forgery, a felony of the fifth degree, and
  • One count of workers’ compensation fraud, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

The charges of inducing panic and making false alarms each carry two firearm specifications.

An investigation conducted by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office found that on April 11, 2017, then-Officer Eubanks shot himself while on duty, but claimed he was shot by a man in a vehicle after stopping the car for a traffic violation.

“The fictional story that this defendant is accused of concocting led to a response involving local, state, and federal authorities, and an Ohio Blue Alert was issued to put the entire state on alert,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Considerable resources were used to investigate the claims, and there must be consequences for needlessly causing such serious alarm.”

Additionally, an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found that Eubanks forged workers’ compensation documents to apply for benefits related to his injury.

According to the TimesReporter.com, Eubanks told investigators he made up the story to cover up a failed suicide attempt. He said he had been struggling emotionally following a murder investigation last year.

Eubanks’ arraignment is scheduled for July 17.

Spotlight on SID’s college relations program

Developing tomorrow’s leaders in criminal justice, law enforcement

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

Interested in getting coffee? Making photocopies?

You won’t find that at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s (BWC) Special Investigations Department (SID). SID interns are real employees who do real work as part of our college relations program, now in its 23rd year.

“We’re treated like coworkers,” says Ohio State University student Gabby Master, an intern in SID’s intelligence unit. “We do all the projects everyone else does.”

On top of all that, she adds, “It’s really fun!”

(You can catch Gabby sharing more about her intern experience in this YouTube video.)

Established in 1995, SID’s college relations program promotes the study and practice of criminology, criminal justice, law enforcement and public administration. Since its inception, SID has recruited, selected, oriented and trained more than 300 paid college interns.

Many have humbled us with favorable feedback over the years, but we know the credit and accolades go to them. Their careers are testament to their professionalism. Many have gone on to become officers, criminal investigators, special agents, fraud analysts, digital forensic analysts, assistant special agents in charge, special agents in charge and assistant director.

Gabby Master, Kelsey Wilson, Loryn Competti and Brianna Belmonte

We’re pleased that for more than 20 years our college relations program has attracted students from a variety of backgrounds, schools and experiences.

Today we have seven talented interns working with our special investigations units (SIUs) statewide. Four college interns (pictured above) are based in our Columbus headquarters: Gabby Master, Kelsey Wilson, Loryn Competti and Brianna Belmonte. Our other SID interns (not pictured) are Allison Castle (Lima), Stephen Kersey (Toledo) and Connor Yuellig (Governor’s Hill).

These interns are here for the same reasons that our past interns have worked with SID. They want a challenge, and that’s what they get.

“Our interns have helped us tremendously over the years,” says SID Director Jim Wernecke. “Their work has helped us convict hundreds of fraudsters and saved the BWC system tens of millions of dollars.”

Are you enrolled at a college or university and interested in joining our team as an intern? If so, I invite you to contact me at Jeffrey.B.1@bwc.state.oh.us.