Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Ohio man who kept on truckin’ convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Madison County truck driver who claimed he was permanently disabled from a work injury in 1999 pleaded guilty Wednesday to workers’ compensation fraud after investigators discovered him driving a truck again for another employer.

Michael Humble, 48, must pay $3,834 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), according to his sentence Wednesday in a Franklin County courtroom. A judge also sentenced Humble to one day in jail, suspended, for the first-degree misdemeanor.

Acting on a tip, BWC’s special investigations department discovered Humble driving a truck in August 2015 for an exterior siding and roofing company while still collecting Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits.

Humble’s restitution is based on a time period that investigators proved he was working, not on total benefits received since his date of injury.

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

Have you ever wondered how BWC calculates your workers’ compensation insurance premium rate?

By Christopher S. Carlson, FCAS, MAAA, BWC Chief Actuarial Officer

It all comes down to an equation:

     Modified premium rate
+   Administrative cost rate
+   Disabled Workers’ Relief Funds assessments
=   Blended insurance rate per $100 of payroll

With the definitions in the sidebar as reference, let’s break down the formula:

All employers have a base rate determined by their manual classifications.

Larger businesses also have an experience modifier, a projection of expected future claims costs (based on past claims experience).

Multiplying the base rate and experience modifier (if you have one) results in the modified premium rate (MPR).

BWC factors in an administrative cost rate, used to run BWC and the Industrial Commission, and then adds assessments for two Disabled Workers’ Relief Funds that provide cost of living increases for disabled workers.

The result is your blended premium rate, the amount you pay per $100 of payroll

So there you have it, a quick lesson in BWC Premium Rate Development 101. This YouTube video provides even more detail on how BWC calculates your Ohio workers’ compensation premiums.

Remember, the best way to keep premiums low is to provide a safe workplace. Safer workplaces reduce accidents, reduce costs, and in the end, reduce your premiums.

Gaming technology helping researchers study injuries at nursing facilities

BWC grants are funding exciting research into a variety occupational health and safety issues at Ohio colleges and universities.

Cleveland State University was one of the first recipients of the Ohio Occupational Safety and Health Research Program back in 2015. Since then, researchers have been studying how to reduce injuries in nursing homes.

Check out this story from News Channel 5 in Cleveland about how the university is using gaming technology in its research.

‘Blind’ man who drives, directs traffic, guilty of theft from workers’ comp agency

Parking lot owner one of two Toledo cases in court this week

A Toledo-area man who claimed he was too visually impaired to work must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $15,000 in restitution after investigators found him driving, parking cars and directing traffic at a parking facility he owns in downtown Toledo.

Tim Tokles, 60, of Holland, Ohio, must pay BWC $14,689 and serve five years probation after pleading guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor theft count Thursday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“Mr. Tokles claimed he was permanently disabled from working due to an eye injury he suffered on the job, but our surveillance shows him working and performing multiple tasks that were inconsistent with his injury claim,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigation department.

BWC’s investigation discovered Tokles operating his downtown lot outside his medical restrictions from June 19, 2012, until Aug. 31, 2013, while receiving permanent total disability benefits from BWC. When first approached by investigators, Tokles told them he couldn’t see, but they had just witnessed him driving his vehicle.

According to court records, Tokles’ disability claim includes restricted ability to read, use a computer and drive because of glare, depth perception, light sensitivity and discomfort in right eye. He also claims that several environmental conditions or elements irritate his eye, including air conditioning, cleaning materials, dust, air pollutants and wind.

In another fraud case out of Toledo this week, a maintenance man must pay BWC $18,501 in restitution and serve five years probation after investigators found him working at various apartment complexes in the Toledo area while collecting BWC benefits.

Alfred Bowlson, 44, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud on Wednesday in Franklin County. A judge warned that if Bowlson violates the terms of his probation, he will serve 11 months in prison.

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