Your workplace safety innovation could be a winner!

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 2019 Safety Innovation Awards is now open! We’re seeking innovative and creative 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, 2018. Finalists will receive cash awards, ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 and statewide recognition at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 6 to 8, 2019.

Last year’s finalists included innovations such as a remote-controlled vacuuming system for cleaning clarifier tanks and an articulating arm that assists workers when doing weld tear-downs on truck cabs. You can check out descriptions and videos of all the 2018 finalists’ innovations.

We hope the past finalists and their ideas will inspire you to apply for the 2019 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!

We’re back at the Ohio State Fair!

Stop by our booth for safety tips from BWC’s guardian angels   

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Hello from the 2018 Ohio State Fair! Being at the fair last year was so great that we decided to come back this year.

We’re back in the Bricker Marketplace – booth 02 to be exact – highlighting our Be Safe Ohio campaign.

With Day 1 in the books, we’re already having a great time meeting fairgoers of all ages to share our message of being safe at work and at home.

During the next few weeks, we’ll bring awareness of common hazards – including overexertion, slips trips and falls, and driving safety – to attendees and give them info to make their homes and workplaces safer. Attendees will also be able to sign up for our health and wellness program, Better You, Better Ohio! while they’re there.

To help you get there, we’re giving away a limited number of fair admission tickets and a few remaining concert tickets. Find out how to win your free tickets.

When you’re at the fair, stop by and say hello. Come play a round of Safety Plinko and get safety tips from BWC’s guardian angels. And while you’re strolling the midway, look up at the SkyGlider, branded with our safety campaign messaging.

Once again, we’re honored to be part of this traditionally significant event for Ohioans and one of the largest state fairs in the nation.

We hope to see you there!

OSC19 Call for Presenters: Diversity and Inclusion Track

By Carolina Thatcher, BWC Inclusion and Diversity Director

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is accepting presentation proposals for the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) track of the nation’s largest occupational-focused safety and health event, March 6 to 8, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC19) helps businesses keep their workforce safe, healthy and productive. Guest presenters from various states and more than 200 exhibitors share their knowledge and resources at this free event.

Audience
The D&I track attracts managers, organizational leaders, human resources professionals, D&I practitioners, attorneys, employers, and others interested in D&I, talent management, and employee engagement strategies.

Session Format
OSC19 offers more than 200 educational presentations with continuing education credits for a variety of professions. For the D&I track, we are seeking:

  • One-hour educational sessions, panel discussions and live demonstrations.
  • Three-hour workshops.

Target Audience
Selection committees may give additional consideration to proposals that meet the recommendations below.

  • The topic conveys practical applications of D&I knowledge for human resources and legal professionals.
  • Session content is appropriate for individuals in the field who are looking to develop or implement strategies to create an organizational culture of diversity and inclusion in the private or public sector.

Session Policies
Proposals shall not consist of more than five speakers, including a moderator. For multiple speakers, each speaker must agree to the terms of this submission.

  1. We do not accept sales presentations. Your proposal must be educational and free from commercial content.
  2. Your material should be original; otherwise, you must reference sources.
  3. We do not provide honorarium for concurrent sessions. Speakers are responsible for accommodations and all travel-related expenses.

Selection Criteria
The selection committee will consider numerous factors including, but not limited to, the criteria below.

  • Proposals contain proper sentence structure and correct spelling.
  • Session content is clearly organized, current, practical or innovative.
  • Session descriptions are substantive and explain the relevancy of the topic.
  • Session skill level is appropriate for the topic and targeted audience.

Please write clear learning objectives to complete the sentence “Participants will be able to…” Use action verbs such as define, describe, distinguish, explain, identify, list, recall, recognize, select and summarize.

Selection Timeline
Aug. 10, 2018  Proposal submission deadline
Oct. 31, 2018   We notify selected submitters

Commitment
If we select your proposal, we ask that you present the session at the designated date, time and location, and meet the deliverable deadlines we provide. The time-sensitive deliverables include, but are not limited to, the presenter logging on to the OSC19 Speaker Service Center, submitting audio-visual requirements and uploading session handout materials, etc. If emergency circumstances prevent you from fulfilling your commitment, we ask that you immediately notify us of the comparable subject-matter expert presenting on your behalf.

Ready to Submit?
If you have a topic for an OSC19 presentation that meets the above guidelines, we would love to hear from you. Please send your proposal via email to Diversity@bwc.state.oh.us.

Ohio State Fair tickets up for grabs!

We’re a proud sponsor of the 2018 Ohio State Fair

You may have noticed we’re running a safety campaign! There are commercials, online messages, YouTube videos and more – all in an effort to reach Ohioans to help keep them safe.

We know that slips, trips, falls, overexertions and driving-related accidents in Ohio make up approximately 60 percent of all serious BWC claims each year.

BeSafeOhio.com is a new website with all kinds of good information to help prevent these kinds of accidents. Whether at work or at home, we want people to think about how they are in control of their own safety and are the first line of defense to prevent injuries that would cause them to miss work or disrupt their normal day-to-day lives.

We are teaming up with the Ohio State Fair to raise awareness about BeSafeOhio.com, and we need your help!

As part of our partnership with the Ohio State Fair, we received a number of admission tickets and a variety of concert tickets.

Help us spread the word about BeSafeOhio.com and you could win some of these tickets.

Here’s how to win!

  1. Follow us on Twitter @OhioBWC so we can direct message you for contact info. (If you don’t have a Twitter account, it’s easy to create one – all you need is an email address and a password).
  2. Look for our tweet about BeSafeOhio.com, starting on July 17. It will include this message: “Ohio State Fair tickets up for grabs! See details, follow us and retweet! https://t.co/zo9uoqitDg #Ohio #giveaway”
  3. Retweet that message to your followers and you could win.

Note: Please check your settings under “privacy and safety” so you can “receive direct messages from anyone.”

The first 50 to retweet will receive a four-pack of admission tickets.

The next 50 to retweet will receive a two-pack of admission tickets.

We’ll keep an eye on retweets and if you’re one of the winners, we’ll contact you privately from @OhioBWC via Twitter direct messaging for your name and mailing address. Winners will be identified using the Twitter date/time stamp.

We also have concert tickets to State Fair entertainment: Reba McEntire, Lee Brice, Styx/Cheap Trick, and Kidz Bop Live. Look out for the tweet promoting those at 1 p.m. Monday, July 23. It will have the message: “Ohio State Fair concert tickets up for grabs! See details, follow us and retweet! #Ohio #giveaway.” There are only five sets of four tickets for those so retweet fast! Again, we’ll direct message winners to see which tickets they’d like, in the order in which they retweeted.

Organizations that do business with BWC, such as third-party administrators, group-rating sponsors, safety council sponsors and managed care organizations aren’t eligible to win. But your non-employee followers are eligible, so make sure to retweet so they benefit. Also, BWC employees and family members are not eligible to participate. Limit one set of fair tickets or one set of concert tickets per Twitter account.

Thank you for helping us raise awareness about safety at home and in the workplace! And, whether you win or not, please stop by our booth in the Marketplace building to see and hear our safety campaign messages first-hand. We look forward to seeing you at the Ohio State Fair.

For safety campaign tips and resources, please visit www.BeSafeOhio.com.

Ohio BWC secures 7 convictions in June

More than a quarter million dollars owed in restitution

Six current and one former Ohioan who owe more than $269,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) were convicted in June on charges related to workers’ compensation fraud.

Those convicted included six employers and one injured worker who was working in Colorado while collecting disability benefits from BWC. Three employers account for the bulk of the restitution owed.

“If these employers had just played by the rules and reached out to us for help when they were struggling, we could have had a better outcome for all involved,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Instead, they went in a different direction and now they have a criminal record in addition to their unpaid BWC premiums.”

In order of most recent court appearance, those convicted include:

Randall Mount, dba Ram Restoration, Lapsed Coverage, Dayton, Ohio
Mount pleaded no contest June 25 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him operating without coverage since January 2016. BWC worked with Mount to bring his policy current, but Mount failed to follow through.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 13. The judge advised Mount that he should come to sentencing prepared to show actual steps taken toward reinstatement and compliance with the law. Mount owes more than $190,000 in premiums and claims costs billed to his policy while his coverage was lapsed.

Karrie Hoskisson, Working and Receiving, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hoskisson, 44, formerly of Canal Winchester, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge June 21 after BWC found her living and working in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a night watchman while receiving BWC benefits.

The former dog groomer was sentenced to 36 days in jail. A Franklin County judge gave her credit for time served because she was jailed in Colorado after her arrest in May and again in Columbus following her extradition to Ohio.

John Triskett, dba The Gyro Spot, Under Reporting Payroll, Parma, Ohio
Triskett pleaded guilty June 19 to one count of Attempted Workers’ Compensation Fraud, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found his business lacked workers’ comp coverage. A judge sentenced Triskett to 30 days in jail (suspended), six months of probation and ordered Triskett to pay a $100 fine and $1,140 in restitution to BWC.

Jason Brown, dba Bolts Carriers LLC, Lapsed Coverage, Bellefontaine, Ohio
Brown pleaded no contest June 12 in the Bellefontaine Municipal Court to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors. Brown was sentenced to 20 days jail and fined $450 for each charge. The judge suspended the sentence conditionally, giving Brown until Dec. 12 to prove to the court that his BWC policy had been reinstated.

The policy for Bolts Carriers LLC had been lapsed since September 2015. Prior to sentencing, Brown paid approximately $1,900 toward his balance of more than $55,000.

Howard McIntosh, dba Custom Canvas, Lapsed Coverage, Lakeview, Ohio
McIntosh pleaded no contest June 12 in the Bellefontaine Municipal Court to three counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors. McIntosh was sentenced to 30 days jail and fined $450 for each charge. The judge suspended the  sentence conditionally, giving McIntosh until Sept. 1 to prove to the court his BWC policy had been reinstated. One week prior to his court appearance, McIntosh remitted a $1,000 payment toward his BWC balance of more than $23,000.

Stephen Frair, dba Frair Ltd, Lapsed Coverage, Columbus, Ohio
Frair pleaded guilty June 5 in Franklin County Municipal Court to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors, after letting his policy lapse in July 2015. Frair told BWC he closed his business Nov. 1, 2017. A judge fined him $165.

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

SCBA fit testing – Ensuring firefighters’ safety equipment is actually safe

By David Meronk, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Firefighting techniques and equipment used to fight fires have evolved over the years, along with the equipment that protects firefighters from harm.

The self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) plays a big role in protecting the health of firefighters. Knowing is understanding and fire departments are slowly beginning to grasp the real difference safety gear – and its proper use – can make in protecting firefighters from cancer and other ailments.

This increased awareness comes as Ohio now allows presumptive cancer workers’ compensation claims for those who have or may become ill due to specific forms of cancer while performing official duties as a firefighter.

As a safety consultant for BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene, I routinely visit fire stations to review and make recommendations on improving safety to protect our first responders. I often advise on use and care of SCBAs, air cascade air fill stations and firefighting turnout gear.

While fire departments do often lack the funding needed to replace the safety equipment, what surprises me most as I travel and meet with fire chiefs is not lack of proper equipment but improper use of that equipment and a lack of well-written safety programs.

Reviewing and updating policies can help reduce exposure to injury and illness, while promoting good safety practices. I find many chiefs are shocked when they discover their current polices are non-compliant to National Fire Protection Association and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

I remind chiefs that “accidents do not discriminate” and encourage them to embrace the opportunity to make changes that can prevent injuries. A professional saying in the Fire Emergency Services is, “If you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it.”

Especially alarming to me is inadequate or completely nonexistent SCBA “fit testing.”

The respiratory protection program requires fit testing, and SCBA facepiece fit testing is necessary to ensure masks have an adequate mask seal and an acceptable fit factor. Fit tests evaluate the interaction between the firefighter’s face and the SCBA facepiece to ensure a correct and proper fit.

Per OSHA standards, employers must obtain a written recommendation from a designated physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) regarding each employee’s ability to use a respirator before fit testing. The written release(s) must apply to every type of respirator an employee will use.

Fit testing is critical because firefighters work in environments that are unstable and constantly changing. They are also exposed to unknown inhalation hazards while doing their job. Therefore, they deserve nothing less than the specialized training, tools and equipment to perform their duties safely and efficiently.

Fire departments can conduct fit testing in-house, if they have qualified individuals to administer the test with a calibrated machine. Certified equipment representatives can also administer the test if needed. Depending on the type of fit test machine and types of SCBAs, fire departments can conduct multiple tests of different air packs and masks by switching over the correct fittings for testing.

Fit testing helps maintain proper sizing of the facepiece, safety compliance, training verification and documentation. Fit testing must occur before a firefighter uses a SCBA in an immediately dangerous to life or health environment and once annually thereafter.

There are two types of fit testing: qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative test requires using a sensitizer to test for an air-tight seal. The quantitative test uses a device to measure the amount of air from the environment outside the facepiece in relation to the air inside the facepiece. The fit test includes time-allotted exercises that testers perform on the equipment to make sure it passes. The fire department must maintain all testing records until the next required fit.

There are several exemplary fire departments that do a great job of fit testing, and maintaining solid safety policies. I count the City of Findlay among them.

I’m on a mission to move all Ohio fire departments into that exemplary category. Improperly used safety equipment isn’t safe, and well-written safety policies are great but useless if not followed.

Visit our website to request a consultation with a BWC safety expert, or email me at david.m.15@bwc.state.oh.us for more information.

David Meronk has 30 years of safety experience, including firefighting in military, civil service, private industry, and state and federal contract work overseas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire & Safety Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a Master’s degree in Emergency Management – Terrorism from Jacksonville State University.

Truck-driving fraudster owes Ohio BWC more than $78,000

Judge orders restitution, 5 years probation

A judge on June 28 ordered a Zanesville-area truck driver to pay $78,321 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) after investigators found the driver had gone back to work without telling BWC so he could continue to collect disability benefits.

The Franklin County judge also sentenced Walter Lee, 54, of Frazeysburg to five years of probation and a 14-day suspended jail term. Lee pleaded guilty on April 24 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

“Our investigators discovered through state records that Mr. Lee had returned to work as a truck driver on May 3, 2013, but he deliberately concealed that information from BWC,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department.

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