Get focused for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Cat videos are hilarious. Just not while you’re behind the wheel. And maybe eat that burrito in the restaurant instead of taking one for the road.

With smartphones, busy schedules and multitasking, it’s easier than ever to be distracted while driving. In fact, it’s now the No. 1 cause of crashes in the U.S., with nearly 3,500 Americans killed by distracted driving in 2015.*

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the perfect time to discuss the dangers of this growing problem with family, friends and co-workers. At BWC, we’re doing our part to raise awareness about distracted driving as part of our newest safety campaign. For example, did you know there are three types of distractions while driving? They are:

  1. Visual distractions that take your eyes off the road;
  2. Manual distractions that take your hands off the wheel;
  3. Cognitive distractions that take your mind off the task at hand.

You can learn more about all three and much more on our safe driving page.

If you want even more information about distracted driving, there is no shortage of it online. The National Safety Council (NSC) has a Distracted Driving Month section on its site. It’s also offering a free webinar – Engaging Ways to Address Distracted Driving at Work – on April 19. You can register for it on the NSC website.

Still want more? Try the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s distracted driving website or the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s Distracted Driving at Work. Just not while you’re driving.

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics

Day care owner guilty of work comp fraud

BWC helps self-insured employer secure case

A Columbus day care owner and nursing assistant pleaded guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after her former employer reported her to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for the crime.

Sharrounda Fuller, 42, must pay $11,514 in restitution to her former employer, a home health care company, and serve five years of probation, according to her sentence in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“The employer is self-insured, so it was paying Ms. Fuller’s benefits out-of-pocket when it learned she had opened a day care center out of her home” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “After the company asked for our assistance in pursuing criminal charges, we discovered she also had worked for three other home health care businesses while collecting disability benefits.”

Wernecke said that while self-insured companies manage their own workers’ compensation programs, BWC will investigate alleged fraud cases on their behalf, because “workers’ comp fraud impacts all of us.”

“Workers’ comp benefits are for people who legitimately can’t work because they were injured on the job,” he said. “When people cheat the system, it just drives up the costs for all the honest stakeholders in the system.”

In other news, a northwest Ohio man who remodeled bathrooms, convenience stores and performed other construction work while collecting BWC benefits was found guilty Wednesday of a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

A Franklin County judge ordered Scott J. Jones of Perrysburg to pay BWC $3,957 in restitution by Oct. 30 this year or face 45 days in jail. Jones paid $1,000 toward the restitution Wednesday morning.

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

2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium third year of success; adds provider staff forum track

We did it again with the help of Ohio’s providers!

Based on accolades from our 2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium participants, the symposium’s third year was a smashing success.

Despite dealing with a snow storm, nearly 600 health-care professionals attended this unique, multi-disciplinary event held March 8 – 9 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Thank you!
Together, symposium participants share our joint passion for the comprehensive care of Ohio’s injured workers.

We centered the program around injured workers’ total care.

To assist with this process, we offered up to 12.75 continuing education credits for 10 health-care professions this year.

A special thanks to the symposium’s outstanding presenters, exhibitors and participants as well as our Medical & Health Division for leading this event that we offer participants at no cost. We continue to offer state, national and international experts for our provider clinical education sessions.

The Medical and Health Symposium​ featured two outstanding speakers who shared their inspiring stories of overcoming obstacles and adversity while recovering from injuries. They offered tips for injured workers, providers and family members on how to deal with sudden change following a catastrophic injury. Now they are giving back to others from their life experiences.

Brad Hurtig lost both hands in a workplace accident while in high school, and Dale Hull, M.D. became a tetraplegic following a trampoline accident.

Here is an earlier BWC story about Hurtig’s injury and recovery. He has come full circle in his recovery.

What was new this year?
This year our annual symposium included a full-day provider staff forum track (March 9) designed specifically for office support staff.

BWC and managed care organization experts led lively sessions that included panel discussions and questions and answers.

           

Again, the exhibitor area was a big success with 21 exhibitors who help care for Ohio’s injured workers.

               

Ohio State Chiropractic Association (OSCA): OSCA representatives reach out to symposium participants about the latest trends and advantages in chiropractic care for Ohio’s injured workers to help them get back to work, back to life.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the symposium’s success. Thank you for joining us and for helping us in taking care of Ohio’s workers – at home and at work.

Remember to log in to the Attendee Service Center no later than April 11 to evaluate your sessions and print attendance certificates.

Here’s a look back in photos and tweets!

We’re off and running! Registration was in full swing at our 2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Comprehensive Care: BWC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Terry Welsh kicks off the symposium emphasizing continuing education’s value for providers at all stages of their careers.

When Change Chooses You:  Dr. Dale Hull of Utah shares his story of dealing with tetraplegic paralysis following a spinal cord injury. He reviewed what he learned as a patient that he would have ignored as a physician.

Return to function: Dr. Ranavaya, who is also an attorney, reviewed stay/return to work strategies for injured workers. He also discussed how to help methodically determine disease causation in another session.

Speakers who kicked off the symposium: They are from l. to r. Dr. Hull who had a life-changing accident that lead to paralysis; Dr. Mohammed Ranavaya of Marshall University School of Medicine who reviewed how providers can help injured workers stay/return to their jobs and our Dr. Welsh, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist.

Moving Toward a Targeted Approach to Concussion:  Dr. Alicia Sufrinko of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, discusses the framework for looking at an injury and how assessments lead to certain clinical profiles for concussions.

 

Shoulder Injuries – Treatment, Referral, Surgery and Return to Work: Dr. Matthew Levy, orthopedic surgeon of St. Vincent Charity Hospital, Cleveland, answers questions about different surgical techniques for repairing shoulder injuries.

 

Wellness and Total Worker Health: Dr. Otto Schmidt discusses warning signs or red flags to look for when taking care of an injured worker’s total health with a fellow chiropractor.

 

 

Diversity – Cultural Competencies lead to better Outcomes: Dr. Alejandro Diez, Ohio State University, explains how demographic changes in Ohio’s population form the current diversity of our patient population.

He discussed cultural issues that impact patients’ health and well-being.

 

Pharmacy trends: Dr. Amanda Waltemath, Healthesystems of Florida, discussed current and emerging pharmacy trends and their impact on workers’ compensation.

 

Neurobiology of Addiction – Science Meets Recovery: Dr. Susan Blank, chief medical officer and founder, Atlanta Healing Center, says the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a primary chronic disease of the brain. It influences the mind, body and soul.
  
Pharmacy blogger: Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM (right) discusses the genesis and scope of the opioid epidemic with symposium participants and with our Pharmacy Director Nick Trego (left).

 

 

 


Health and Behavioral Intervention:
Dr. Michael Sullivan of McGill University, Canada, reviewed a behavioral/health program to assist injured workers in getting back to work, back to life.

BWC Initiatives and Strategies: From a medical perspective, Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison reviewed BWC’s new initiatives that impact providers and their patients.

Find A Way: BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison stands with motivational speaker and injured worker Brad Hurtig before Hurtig’s presentation that closes out our symposium with a standing ovation. 

Hurtig was tragically injured in high school at a local manufacturer and lost both his hands. But, he turned obstacles into opportunities by continuing to play football and leading his team to victory.

See you in 2019! Thank you for helping injured workers get back to work, back to life.

Protecting Ohioans on National Ag Day and every day

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Today is the first day of spring! And, fittingly, it’s also National Ag Day in the U.S.

The Agriculture Council of America started National Ag Day 45 years ago to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives.

National Ag Day also encourages all of us to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced;
  • Value the vital role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy;
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

With 74,500 farms in 2016* and nearly 14 million acres of farmland in Ohio**, agriculture remains one of our state’s strongest industries. And all those farms equal thousands of workers in Ohio’s ag industry, workers that deserve a safe, healthy working environment.

We’re here to do our part by providing on-site consultation services to help farms and agricultural businesses to recognize hazards and take actions to prevent workplace incidents. We also offer training courses at locations throughout the state to make it easy for workers to attend.

Additionally, we have conducted outreach on grain bin safety and developed educational materials about the dangers associated with grain bins. Our library offers many resources on agricultural safety, including a variety of audiovisual materials for borrowing.

During the past few years, we’ve had a booth at the annual Farm Science Review, one of the premier agricultural trade and education shows in the nation.

Being at the event – hosted by OSU Extension – has given us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with farmers and others from Ohio agribusiness.

At BWC, we’re serious about protecting farmers and Ohio’s agricultural workforce. It’s only right that we recognize and protect those who provide life’s essentials to us on National Ag Day and every day.

*USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
**USDA, 2012 Census of Agriculture

 

Ohio Safety Congress & Expo for 2018: Another complete success

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

As part of our Special Investigations Department (SID) mission to effectively and proactively prevent losses to the workers’ compensation system and to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud, we recognize the importance of educating and informing our stakeholders about how they may join us to combat fraud.

That’s why we annually schedule and conduct dozens of fraud presentations to groups of internal and external stakeholders throughout the state.

On March 7 and 8, at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2018, Shawn Fox, a SID special agent in charge, facilitated a workers’ compensation fraud presentation and Josh Grappy, a forensic computer specialist with the SID digital forensics unit, conducted a session on commercial uses, regulations and best practices for drones.

This annual event was another complete success. To a packed house, we shared techniques used to combat workers’ compensation fraud and to investigate safety violations. In the photo above SID Special Agent in Charge Shawn Fox walks attendees of a BWC Safety Congress & Expo through the steps he and his staff take when investigating a fraud allegation.

SID employees consistently promote fraud prevention strategies to stakeholders by means of social media, articles in periodicals, and presentations, such as participation in the annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, safety councils, MCOs and community-based organizations. These efforts educate, inform and build understanding of the BWC’s overall mission “to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.”

Since July 1, 2017, SID has conducted 51 fraud presentations describing and demonstrating how we accomplish our mission. Our SID employees share examples of successful cases and furnish all attendees with the means to detect and report suspected fraud.

We welcome requests for fraud presentations from all interested organizations. To schedule a fraud presentation, simply e-mail your request to Jeffrey.B.1@bwc.state.oh.us and we will promptly contact you to discuss your group’s event.

We hope you’ll contact us and look forward to meeting you soon!

For more details pertaining to our fraud prevention efforts, view our Annual Report here.

Graphic artist guilty of work comp fraud

Former Ohioan found working in Colorado

A former Ohioan injured on the job in 1991 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud March 5 after investigators found him working in Colorado while collecting injured workers’ benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

John W. Bezusko, 50, must pay $19,530 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation for the first-degree misdemeanor, according to his sentence March 5 in a Franklin County courtroom.

“We reviewed bank records, emails and other evidence showing Mr. Bezusko worked as a graphic designer for his home-based business while living in Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID).

Also last week, a judge ordered Eric Payne of Hamilton, Ohio, to pay BWC $4,065 in restitution and serve two years probation after Payne pleaded guilty March 6 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge also warned Payne that if he violates his probation, he must serve 11 months in prison.

SID investigators found Payne working as a building inspector and a temporary laborer for a mobile home park while collecting more than $8,000 from BWC in 2015.

In other news, SID secured two fraud convictions in February.

Charles Malone, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after he was discovered working for a heating and air conditioning company while simultaneously collecting benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Malone to 180 days in jail, suspended for five years of community control (probation), under the condition that he maintains employment and pays $6,879 in restitution.

Kyle E. Goodwin, of Westlake, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him operating his sports video business while collecting disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Goodwin to pay BWC $2,978 in restitution and serve 180 days in jail (suspended) and 12 months of community control.

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

OSC18 – The postgame wrap-up

Thanks for joining the team!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

At Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC18) last week, we made the most important addition to our safety team: You!

For three days, more than 8,000 employers, workers, safety and medical professionals found their winning safety and health game plan at OSC18 and our Medical and Health Symposium.

We were thrilled to see so many of you tweeting and sharing your #OSC18 experience on Twitter! Check out our Twitter recap and scroll back through our blog coverage from last week while you’re here on the site.

Remember, to visit the OSC18 website’s Attendee Service Center if you need to print course attendance certificates or access presentation materials from many of the classes.

Now let’s go for a repeat! We’ll hold #OSC19 March 6-8, 2019, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. We can’t wait to team up with you again next year!


The crowd arrives for registration and badge pick-up.

Record numbers fill the convention center.


BWC Administrator Sarah Morrison tips off OSC18. If you missed her opening remarks, which included a sneak peek of our safety campaign commercial, you can watch it on YouTube.

Attendees put the full-court press on the Expo Marketplace!

Innovative all-stars: We announced the 2018 Safety Innovations Award winners March 8. Navistar took first place!


Fan favorites: MPW Industrial Services took home second place and the People’s Choice award.


In third place, Terracon Consultants, Inc.

Ramco Electric Motors received the honorable mention award and $1,500. Congratulations to all!

Finding a way: Injured worker triumphs through tragedy

Brad Hurtig, a double amputee, inspires audience at BWC medical symposium

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

The workplace accident that took Brad Hurtig’s hands in 2002 could have taken so much more from the high school student-athlete — his place as a star linebacker on the football team, his hopes, dreams and career goals.

But Hurtig, who gave the final lecture Friday at the 2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, wouldn’t let that happen, thanks to a coach who wanted him back on the team and a water bottle on the practice field.

“He invited me to practice when I got out of the hospital,” Hurtig recalled to hundreds of health care providers gathered at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “It was in late July, super hot and muggy. There was a water bottle on the ground, and I asked my coach for a drink. Well, he paused for a moment, looked at the water bottle, then up at me and said something that would ultimately change my life: ‘If you’re thirsty enough, you’ll find a way.’”

Hurtig found a way, along with a new motto that propels him to this day as a motivational speaker and youth minister.

A three-sport jock, Hurtig had broken a school record for tackles as a middle linebacker his sophomore year. After his accident and a failed stint as a placekicker (“I was terrible”), he returned to his old position his senior year, broke more records (111 tackles) and made all-state honors in his division.

Now 33, the northwest Ohio resident travels the country talking to high schoolers, the media and others about perseverance through adversity. He calls his lecture, Find a Way: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.

BWC Administrator Sarah Morrison stands with motivational speaker Brad Hurtig before Hurtig’s lecture Friday afternoon at the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Speaking for about an hour to the symposium audience, Hurtig recalled the June day of his accident 16 years ago, shortly after finishing his sophomore year, and the journey that followed.

He was working in a friend’s family business, a metal shop, placing sheet metal in a 500-ton power press that stamped metal into automotive parts. One sheet was misaligned. He attempted to straighten it, but his friend at the control switch didn’t notice. The press came down, severing Hurtig’s right arm below the elbow and crushing his left hand.

“The first thing I remember wasn’t really the pain or even the physical sensation, it was hearing someone scream when they looked at me,” he said.

Hurtig spent 11 days in a Toledo hospital and endured multiple surgeries. In the weeks and months that followed, he worked closely with his medical team and BWC to adapt to his new life and make life adapt to him. BWC provided equipment so he could drive, open doors, turn the shower on and operate a computer. Key to his recovery were myoelectric prosthetic arms.

He removed his prosthetics and explained to the audience how they work. He spoke of the family, friends and health care providers who supported him throughout his ordeal, the empathy of doctors and others who seemed genuinely caring and dedicated to his recovery. “BWC was huge,” he said.

He also shared a couple of workplace safety tips:

  • Stop and think. Impulsive, snap decisions get us into trouble.
  • “If I just communicated with my friend, I would still have my hands.”

“The reality is we all have challenges in life, we all have setbacks, and I can tell you that how we handle those setbacks will in many ways define our lives,” he said. “Excuses will only get you so far. If you’re truly thirsty enough, you will find a way.”

For more on Hurtig, visit bradhurtigsafety.com.

Are exoskeletons the future of workplace injury prevention?

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

We’re capping off OSC18 with an all-day session and demonstration of the latest in workplace wearable technology: exoskeletons.

Delia Treaster, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor, organized the session just as the the technology is beginning to gain momentum as tool for preventing workplace injuries.

“The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort,” said Treaster in a recent blog.

Many questions remain but exoskeletons seem to have great potential for injury prevention.

One thing we know for sure is the devices are drawing a big crowd and a lot of interest at OSC this year.

Check out these pictures from this morning’s presentations:

           

 

 

Report: Ohio in poor health

‘We need to step up our game,’ chiropractor says

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

When it comes to health and wellness, Ohio is in pretty shabby shape, a Cleveland chiropractor told hundreds of health care providers Thursday afternoon at the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Dr. Otto Schmidt, referring to America’s Health Rankings for 2017 by the United Health Foundation, said Ohio ranks 39th in overall health and wellness compared to the rest of the country.

“I saw where Ohio is ranked, and it kind of took me back,” Schmidt told an audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “I find that a little disconcerting as a health care provider. We have to ask ourselves, can we do better?”

Schmidt pointed to several health indicators where Ohio ranks near the bottom: cancer deaths (40th), heart attacks (39th), smoking (45th) and drug deaths per 100,000 people (46th). But Ohio ranks highly in the number of primary care physicians (13th) and number of hospitals (5th).

“We need to step up our game,” Schmidt said.“In workers’ compensation, we need to focus not just on the trauma of the injury but on the wellness of the injured worker.”

That means looking at the total person and recognizing “red flags,” he said.These includes physical and behavioral barriers that complicate an injured worker’s recovery, co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and smoking, anxiety, poor attitude and other self-defeating behaviors.

He said getting injured workers back to work takes a team effort from all stakeholders involved,including physicians and other health care providers, injured workers and their support network, and even employers.

Schmidt, who also serves on BWC’s HealthCare Provider QualityAssurance Advisory Committee, noted two BWC programs that incorporate those elements, physician-driven models that stress coordinated care. They include the Enhanced Care Program, a pilot program focused on knee injuries, and the Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention rule, which offers coaching and counseling sessions to help patients overcome negative thinking, poor coping skills and other behavioral barriers to recovery.

BWC also is addressing worker health and wellness with a free program it launched Feb. 1. The agency’s Better You, Better Ohio! program offers health risk assessments, biometric screenings, personalized health plans, coaching and more to Ohioans who work for companies with 50 or fewer employees in certain high-risk job classifications, such as construction, manufacturing, agricultural, and others.

“We all have to be on the same page,” Schmidt stressed. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t go from 39th to the top 10. We just need to step up our game.”

The health symposium, which runs in conjunction with BWC’s Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, continues through Friday.