Top 5 posts of 2017

It’s been a busy year on the Ohio BWC blog!

In 119 posts, we covered topics ranging from safety during a solar eclipse to preparing for an active aggressor situation. In between were fraud updates and safety tips from our experts.

Thanks to all of our readers, and those who shared our links and left comments!

Here are the posts you read the most in 2017:

  1. Don’t look at the sun and other not-so-obvious tips!
  2. Foul! Bowling coach crosses the line, commits work comp fraud
  3. Don’t be shocked or surprised – use lockout/tagout
  4. Working hard in the yard? Remember these safety tips
  5. Are you prepared for an active aggressor incident?

We’re looking forward to another busy year of blogging in 2018.  For now, we wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Five Northeast Ohioans convicted of work comp fraud

Four claimants and one employer from northeast Ohio were sentenced in November for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 121.

“BWC is in the business of caring for injured workers and promoting safe workplaces, not doling out thousands of dollars to cheaters,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’ll return these funds to where they belong and turn our attention to others working the system to avoid paying their share or to collect payments they don’t deserve.”

Among those convicted last month:

Geoffrey Cigany, of Chardon, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 8 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. An anonymous allegation led to an investigation that found Cigany worked as a handyman/carpenter for WC Gotts Holdings, Inc. while receiving benefits between March 2014 and September 2014. Cigany paid restitution in full in the amount of $8,499. A Franklin County judge ordered Cigany to pay a fine and waived court costs.

Harvey Short, dba ASAP Transport, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, was convicted Nov. 16 of a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply for falsifying his workers’ compensation certificate of coverage. The certificate raised suspicion after Short provided it to a local company as proof of coverage because it showed a different policy number than the one he provided the prior year. Short admitted to falsifying the certificate and was ordered by a Garfield Heights Municipal Court judge to pay restitution of $150 and court fees.

Laitanya Dinkins, of Euclid, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. A database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tipped investigators off that Dinkins returned to work as a home health aide while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Dinkins to 90 days in jail (suspended) and three years of community control. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,716.

Christopher Gattarello, of Lyndhurst, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits from BWC. The investigation began after a claims representative noted construction noise in the background during every phone conversation with Gattarello about his injury claim. Investigators found Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, returned to work as a driver/heavy equipment operator. Gattarello was sentenced in a Franklin County courtroom to 186 days in jail with credit for time served. He was already serving 57-months in prison on federal charges of money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act. Read more about his case and view surveillance video here.

Timothy S. Lumsden, of Avon Lake, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. Acting on a tip in 2015, BWC investigators determined Lumsden had returned to work as an independent carpenter at the Federal Knitting Mills Building in Cleveland while collecting temporary total disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lumsden to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

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

This top 10 list could be a real lifesaver

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

The end of the year brings a barrage of top 10 lists – the top films, TV shows, albums, news stories and more. It seems every magazine, news organization and blog has them. So, we thought we’d get in on the action.

Admittedly, the top 10 we’re featuring may not have the pizzazz of many of the others you may see this month. But for employers and workers it’s important (potentially life-saving) info.

The list we’re highlighting is the – drum roll, please – top 10 most-cited safety violations of fiscal year 2017* from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here are the top 10.

  1. Fall Protection; General Requirements (1926.501) – 6,072
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 4,176
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 3,288
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) –  3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) –  2,877
  6. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 1,405

OSHA released the list in September at the National Safety Council’s (NSC’s) 2017 Safety Congress and Expo in Indianapolis, but we thought we’d provide a recap. The December issue of NSC’s Safety+Health magazine has an in-depth cover story about the list.

“The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said earlier this year. “When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.”

In an interview with Safety+Health magazine, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs said, “The Top 10 is a great place for the employer to start if they don’t know where to start. The list identifies some of the major hazards out there. Take that list and see how it may apply to your workplace.”

He added, “Important questions to ask are, ‘What’s happening with my training programs? Are they covering what they should?’ Hazard communication, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, powered industrial trucks – all of those require specific training programs. Look at your programs in these areas, because many of the deficiencies we find involve training.”

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene can provide this training at no additional cost to Ohio employers. It’s covered by the premiums they’ve already paid. Visit our Education Training & Outreach page for options we can provide. We can also help make your workplace safer with the consulting services we provide to Ohio’s public and private employers.

Now is as good a time as any to assess your workforce and make a list of where your organization may need safety training and consultation.

*Preliminary figures as of Sept. 5, 2017

Ohio carpenter nailed for work comp fraud

Pomeroy man one of two southeastern Ohioans convicted of fraud last week

A southeastern Ohio man must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $23,000 after investigators found him working several jobs while collecting injured worker’s benefits.

Ernest Shawn Baker, 45, of Pomeroy in Meigs County, also must serve five years of community control after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud Nov. 29 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. His probation could terminate sooner upon full payment of $23,128 in restitution.

“We discovered that Mr. Baker went back to work as a carpenter soon after his injury in 2014, and he deliberately didn’t tell us,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We interviewed union officials and others and found he had worked for a dozen different employers while defrauding our agency.”

In another fraud case, an Athens County man on BWC benefits since 1997 has lost his benefits after investigators found him working again for cash under the table.

Mark McIntosh, 51, of Millfield, pleaded guilty Nov. 28 in a Franklin County courtroom to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge fined McIntosh $100, then suspended it, and declined to order restitution because of McIntosh’s age and financial situation.

McIntosh worked as a log seller and chain saw operator when he was injured on the job in January 1997. Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found him overseeing a firewood processing plant and hauling firewood while concurrently receiving permanent total disability benefits.

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

Slipping in a winter wonderland? Not if you take these steps first

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Here we go again – another Ohio winter. Unfortunately, for many people winter will mean more than snow, ice and shoveling; for some, it may mean concussions, bruises and broken bones.  You’ve guessed it – we’re going to talk about navigating the winter wonderland on foot and staying upright.

I work with many Ohio employers and it seems almost everyone has a story about a slip, trip or fall in snow or ice.  I have heard so many versions…walking across the parking lot into work, leaving work and walking down the sidewalk, just stepping in the front door, running to the post office for the company…on and on…and on.

The thing about slips, trips and falls in snow and ice is they can happen anywhere and anytime there is snow or ice, even if it’s only a small amount.  If the temperature is around freezing, you need to be concerned and prepared.

Often employees and employers feel helpless when it comes to this topic.  I agree, you have no control over the weather, but you are not helpless.  There are a few things you can do and say to help prevent slips, trips and falls this winter season.

First, have a PLAN. Before the first freeze, you need to have a plan for when the weather turns bad.  Know who will oversee snow and ice removal.  You may use an outside company or do the removal in-house.  Either way, have a discussion before you need services about who will do the removal, how often it will occur, and who will do inspections.  A designated employee should keep an eye on the weather and other concerns you may have about how snow will get removed and ice will be treated.

Employers can do a couple of MAINTENANCE type things to reduce the likelihood of snow and ice-related falls.  Make sure lighting is good in areas employees walk.  You need to fix and fill in holes as they appear – I know sometimes that’s a never-ending battle with the freeze/thaw around here – but try.  And, listen – make sure you listen and react when employees tell you about slip and fall concerns.  Another great tool is to do frequent inspections on slip and fall concerns.  Really – walk around (safely), including outside and look for things that you can trip or slip on – I bet you will find them (if you do – please fix them).

TRAIN your employees. I am not kidding – consider training your employees how to walk on snow and ice.  It may sound silly, but sometimes that’s what people will remember.

In trainings I’ve done in the past, I tell folks to “walk like a Duck.” They remember it (and me – sometimes people come up to me at the grocery store and say hey – you are the lady who told me to walk like a duck…it happens).

I tell them to close their eyes and envision a duck…they have their feet slightly pointed out, they go slow and they look where they are walking…that’s what you want!  Spread your feet a little wide  and keep your hands out of your pockets to increase your center of gravity.  You also never see a duck carrying a bunch of boxes or papers (or anything for that matter). Ducks are also not distracted – so have the conversation with your employees about watching where they walk and paying attention to their surroundings.

Wear the right SHOES. I know snow boots don’t always match your outfit – but lying on your back in the middle of the parking lot does not look very attractive either.  Proper footwear is so important!  If you want to wear fancy shoes (guys or gals), put them in a bag and change once you get past the parking lot and into the building.  I really like kids snow boots, they have great traction and they are so warm, but that might be taking it to far.

There is another option – they make covers that slip over your shoes to help prevent slips and falls on slippery surfaces.  They are sold at most safety supplies stores and online. I have bought them for gifts before (I know, safety geek here), but nonetheless – they work great – if you remember to put them on.

Don’t feel helpless this winter. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls.  Doing nothing is not an option, we must identify the safety concerns, find solutions and stick to them.  Help yourself and others stay upright on the snow and ice this season.

Cleveland convict adds work comp fraud to criminal record

State crimes followed 2015 conviction on several federal charges

A Cleveland garbage hauler and construction worker serving time in a federal prison for fraud, money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud last week.

Christopher Gattarello, 53, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Gattarello to 186 days in jail with credit for time served.

“This was pretty easy detective work on our part, thanks to our customer claims staff,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Every time our claims representatives telephoned Gattarello about his injury claim, they could hear construction noise in the background. We simply followed up from there.”

Wernecke noted that Gattarello’s fraud against BWC started in March 2015, the same month he was convicted on the federal charges. BWC investigators determined Gattarello worked as a driver/heavy equipment operator through Aug. 16 that year and again from November 2015 through June 2016 while concurrently receiving BWC benefits.

Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, was sentenced in June this year to 57-months in prison for ordering the 2012 demolition of the asbestos-laden National Acme Building in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. Gattarello had been leasing the building and storing garbage there. The demolition released harmful toxins into the air near several homes and a school.

In a related case, Gattarello also was convicted in 2015 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering for defrauding a Louisiana company out of nearly $1.2 million. He was accused of submitting false invoices for work his companies never performed, then using more than $12,000 of ill-gotten money to pay off his personal credit card.

Other news
In a separate BWC fraud case last week, another Cleveland-area man pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge on Nov. 22 ordered Timothy S. Lumsden, 50, of Avon Lake, to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

Acting on a tip in 2015, BWC investigators determined Lumsden had returned to work as an independent carpenter at the Federal Knitting Mills Building in Cleveland while collecting temporary total disability benefits.

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