BWC, ODJFS: Online training to help injured workers

OhioMeansJobs webinars available for continuing education credit

By Tina Elliott, Director, BWC Return to Work Services

To help Ohio’s injured workers return to work, we’re continuing our partnership with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) through its OhioMeansJobs.com website.

A recording of our joint training series with ODJFS is now available online.

These webinars were designed to help providers, injured workers, BWC staff and managed care organizations better understand the resources available to help injured workers return to work. We also want people to know the OhioMeansJobs website can be used as a one-stop hub for return-to-work services.

To view the webinars, go to BWC Learning Management System and select Login or Need an Account. Once you log in, search for the following:

  • Adding Value for Job Seekers with LMI and OhioMeansJobs.com: Locating Information
  • Adding Value for Job Seekers with LMI and OhioMeansJobs.com: Career Direction and ExplorationContinuing Education

Each one-hour session offers one continuing education unit (CEU) for certified rehabilitation counselors, certified case managers and certified disability management specialists. This CEU credit is only valid through Aug. 19.

Session survey

If you already attended the live sessions, you’re welcome to review the videos and access the handouts as a refresher. However, you won’t earn new CEUs for retaking the same sessions. You must complete the session survey to obtain a certificate and credit for the CEUs.

Once you complete the course and the survey, your CEU information will be in your BWC learning center transcript. Within a few days, your certificate will also be available online.

If you have questions, please email us. Thank you for learning more about the tools and resources available on OhioMeansJobs.com. Together, we’re helping Ohio’s injured workers return to work and return to life.

Physician’s note: Start the back-to-work conversation

A first-appointment transitional plan can help an injured worker before the claim is approved

By Adam King, BWC Public Information Officer

Constance was working a late shift when she slipped and fell. She jarred her arm and wrist trying to catch herself and twisted her back as she landed awkwardly.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) legally can’t start helping Constance until the injury is reported and a decision is made on allowing Constance’s claim.

But if Constance’s employer has a transitional work program in place, the doctor can immediately assess how to get her back to work safely and as quickly as possible. The employer can act without waiting for the claim allowance.

That’s the message David Holdsworth and Kimberly Kremer, technical medical specialists at BWC, conveyed during their seminar to provider staff during BWC’s 2019 Medical & Health Symposium. Employers who are proactive improve their injured workers’ outcomes.

“In almost every instance, that is better for the worker,” Holdsworth said of immediately implementing a transitional work plan. “The longer they’re off work, the less likely they are to return. When they’re back on the job, it creates stability in their family, finances and self-esteem.”

More than 50% of injured employees off work for six months or more never return to their original job. Companies lose their entire investment in onboarding and training. That’s thousands to tens of thousands of dollars or more. It also can mean the loss of a valuable team member and co-worker.

Physicians, Holdsworth and Kremer said, play a crucial role, too. During a first visit, the physician should ask Constance if her employer has a transitional work plan. She might not know. She might not think it applies to her injuries. But having that initial communication can speed up the recovery process.

The physician determines whether Constance can safely return to work and in what capacity. Taking on temporary transitional work duties will allow her to heal as her capacity to work increases.

It turns out Constance’s employer has a transitional work plan in place and has already assessed the physical requirements for every job position. It’s an easy process for her employer to identify which work tasks Constance can perform based on her restrictions. The employer offers Constance the modified job duties and she accepts. She’s able to keep working even as her workers’ comp claim is under review.

Once BWC allows the claim, Constance’s physician has several more options to support her efforts to get her back on the job. These vocational rehabilitation programs include remain at work, job retention and return to work.

Remain at work: Constance has missed work, less than eight days, and is now back at work. But she’s experiencing difficulties and might lose more time. Constance, her physician or her employer can identify her job difficulties and ask the employer’s managed care organization (MCO) to request specialized services so she can keep working. Her physician sets her work limitations and rehab needs, and the MCO authorizes the services. These are usually on-site and can include transitional work therapy, physical evaluation or restoration, job modifications, tools and equipment and job retraining.

“One of the first services in remain at work might be transitional work services,” said Kremer. “A physical or occupational therapist comes to the job site to provide interventions that help the worker adjust to the job’s physical demands.”

Job retention: Constance has been off work for more than eight days (which makes her workers’ comp claim a lost-time claim. This means she is drawing temporary total compensation or salary continuation). She returns to work and is still having difficulty doing her original job. Her physician and employer identify her issues returning to full duty and ask the MCO for a vocational rehab referral. Constance must voluntarily agree to the interventions.

Return to work: Constance has not been able to return to work, and there’s a question whether her injuries will allow her to do her job. A vocational rehabilitation manager works with the MCO and BWC to see if Constance can return to her original job or modify her role within the company. If not, they will work with her to find a new employer where the goal is to restore Constance to a similar level of work and earnings. Constance doesn’t need to be at full health to be a return-to-work participant if she can benefit from the services and is likely to return to work as a result.

“At any stage of injury recovery, BWC’s vocational rehabilitation programs offer avenues for workers to achieve their original quality of life or close to it,” Holdsworth said. “Returning to work is critical to an employee’s well-being, and that’s why it’s important for the employer, physician and MCO to be strong partners in their recovery.”

For more information about these programs, email our Rehab Policy team at Policy.R.1@bwc.state.oh.us or call our Customer Contact Center at 800-644-6292 and ask for Rehab Policy.

Toledo contractor owes BWC $57K following fraud conviction

Lapsed policy, refusal to cooperate costs Holland man

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

A Toledo-area contractor owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $57,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in a Toledo courtroom last month.

Eric L. Hughes, 53, of Holland, pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud May 19 after failing to renew his BWC policy despite repeated attempts by the agency to bring him into compliance. A Lucas County judge ordered Holland to pay BWC $56,959 in restitution and serve three years of community control (probation).

“Ducking his legal obligation to protect his workers clearly didn’t pay for Mr. Hughes,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “He could have resolved this issue fairly easily when we first contacted him in 2017, and we would have given him a payment plan to boot. Now he’s got a $57,000 debt and a felony record.”

According to BWC’s special investigations department, Hughes worked as a handyman and general contractor on residential and commercial buildings, usually with just one employee. But after securing a sizable contract to replace a roof on a fire-damaged building in 2017, he hired a crew of eight to 10 workers and started the job while his BWC policy was still lapsed. The company that hired Hughes later fired him after learning of the lapse.

A BWC audit in 2018 determined Hughes owed the agency nearly $57,000 in past premiums, based largely off his payroll for the time he worked on the roofing job.

In other news, a Springfield man must pay BWC $13,518 in restitution after agency investigators found him working in a machine shop and at a restaurant while collecting BWC benefits.

Clark Howard, 35, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom.

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

BWC, area fire departments offering safety stand-down events this week

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer

Statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show firefighters have a 9% higher risk of a cancer diagnosis and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public.

The 2019 Firefighter Stand-Down, happening this week, is focusing on this hazard with its theme – Reduce Your Exposure: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility. We are partnering with a number of Ohio fire departments this week to provide training related to the national stand-down and the theme of reducing exposure to cancer-causing elements on the job.

Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20 – 1 p.m.
The Eastlake Fire Department will host an event for area fire departments covering:

Other participating departments include Mentor, Kirkland, Wickliffe, Willowick, Willoughby and Willoughby Hills. Event address: 35150 Lakeshore Blvd., Eastlake, Ohio 44095

Thursday, June 20 – 10 a.m.
The Whitehouse Fire Department and Waterville Fire Department will co-host an event at the Whitehouse Fire Department. The agenda includes info about:

Event address: 10550 Waterville St., Whitehouse, Ohio 43571

Thursday, June 20 – 6 p.m.
The City of Washington Court House Fire Department will host an event for volunteer fire departments in Fayette County. It will focus on the department’s decontamination practices and an update from BWC’s PERRP. Event address: 225 E. Market St., Washington Court House, Ohio 43160.

Learn more about BWC grants for firefighters
To help protect firefighters from carcinogens and other harmful toxins, we offer the Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program. Started in FY 2018, the program has issued nearly $6.5 million to date to help more than 600 fire departments across the state purchase specialized, life-saving equipment, removing cost as a barrier.

Walking the walk: BWC, Ohio connect recovery to employment at the Kennedy Forum

By Dr. Terrence Welsh, BWC Chief Medical Officer, Forum panel member

I was honored to be a part of last week’s Kennedy Forum 2019 in Chicago! The mission of this annual event is to create lasting change in the way mental health and addictions are treated in our healthcare system.

The forum envisions parity in access to services, transparency in communication and a better understanding and perception of these brain diseases by the public. It addressed accomplishing these goals through healthcare integration, improved technology, and brain health and fitness.

Workplace well-being

The focus this year was on workplace well-being, specifically as it relates to mental illness and substance use. The forum recognized the work we’ve done in our Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program, which supports businesses that hire workers in recovery.

It also recognized Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s support for this program and the Recovery Ohio Plan he launched as attorney general. The governor’s commitment to workers in recovery breaks through stigma, injects hope, and rebuilds families and lives.

I participated in a panel discussion entitled, “Walking the Walk: Prioritizing Mental Health in Your Hiring and Managing Processes.” The panel featured an amazing group, including Dr. Kelly Clark, Past President, American Society of Addiction Medicine; Geralyn Giorgio, Talent Acquisition, Johnson and Johnson; Carol Kivler, MS, CSP, CMT, national mental health speaker and mental wellness advocate, and David Quilleon, Senior VP, Best Buddies International.

BWC Chief Medical Officer Terry Welsh, far right, stands with panel members of “Walking the Walk” at the Kennedy Forum June 11.

Opioids and our workforce

It’s humbling to hear about the magnificent work these people and their organizations are doing, but also encouraging to know Ohio is a leader in finding solutions to the impact of opioids on our workforce. BWC and Ohio are definitely “walking the walk.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addresses an audience at the Kennedy Forum.

As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who addressed the forum, said so well, “It takes courage to address these issues, and we ultimately need to see ourselves in the people we serve.”

The dividends are to our businesses, our workforce, our communities. All of us have been affected, and all of us can be a part of breaking the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorder.

Taking the first step

None of us can “walk the walk” without taking the first step. I want to thank all of those in recovery and our business community for having the courage to do so. I hope others will follow their lead. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

 

BWC chief executive visits southwest Ohio businesses to mark National Safety Month

Companies used BWC safety grants to reduce workplace hazards

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud, second from left, visits staff at the nonprofit Friends of the Castle in Centerville. The business used a $20,000 BWC safety grant to purchase an elevator for clients with mental and physical disabilities.

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud visited a nonprofit business in Centerville and a craft brewery in Cincinnati today to mark National Safety Month and thank the businesses for investing in safety.

In her morning visit to the nonprofit Friends of the Castle in the Dayton suburb of Centerville, McCloud watched staff operate an elevator the business purchased last year with a $20,000 safety grant from BWC. She later joined staff at MadTree Brewing Co. in Cincinnati to watch a $40,000 safety grant in action inside the brewery’s production area.

“It is truly gratifying to see our grant dollars at work for such a good cause — keeping employees safe on the job so they can return home healthy and whole each day,” said McCloud. “We are creating a culture of safety across this state, and it’s my hope employers across the state will follow the example of Friends of the Castle and MadTree Brewing.”

Friends of the Castle is a drop-in facility that annually serves 150 people with severe and persistent mental health disorders. Located at a converted residence, the facility offers peer support and activities that foster life and social skills. The company used BWC’s grant to purchase and install a vertical platform lift, similar to an elevator, to help staff and clients who struggle with stairs access the second floor.

 “We are a safe haven and a stepping stone for people who want to be a productive part of our community,” said Lisa Hansford, Executive Director of Friends of the Castle. “This grant made an immediate impact here, not only by reducing the risk of injuries, but by allowing us to expand our programs and services.”

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud talks to head brewer Ryan Blevins at MadTree Brewing Tuesday about the dry-hop injection system, left, the business purchased with a BWC safety grant.

MadTree used BWC’s grant to purchase a dry hop injection system and an in-line bottle labeler and ink jet coder. The injection system eliminated the need for workers to climb ladders to add hops to fermentation tanks; the labeler reduced the risk for repetitive stress injuries.

“I have no doubt that we’ve avoided numerous injuries with the equipment the BWC grant helped us purchase,” said Ryan Blevins, MadTree Brewing’s head brewer. “Having to carry heavy buckets of hops up 40-foot ladders 20-plus times a day was a disaster waiting to happen.”

BWC allocates $20 million a year to its Safety Grant program, which funds equipment designed to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses for employers covered by the BWC system.

Observed each June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in homes and communities.

“We promote safety all year long,” said McCloud, “but National Safety Month is a great time for employers to reassess safety in their workplaces and commit to a safety mindset each and every day.”

BWC secures six convictions in May

Five Ohio workers and one business owner were convicted in May on workers’ compensation fraud and related charges.

The six convictions raise BWC’s total convictions for the 2019 calendar year to 38.

“When people cheat the BWC system, they are cheating the employers and hard-working Ohioans across this state who play by the rules,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Congratulations to our special investigations department for stopping this fraudulent behavior.”

In order of most recent case, those convicted include:

Bruce Collier of Chardon, Ohio
BWC investigators found Collier working as a self-employed travel agent/owner of Travel Specialist Group while receiving BWC benefits. Collier pleaded guilty May 21 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to pay BWC $12,487 in restitution, which he paid at the time of sentencing.

James Nichols of Cleveland, Ohio
BWC investigators found Nichols working as a janitor and office manager while collecting BWC benefits. Nichols pleaded guilty May 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. He was ordered to pay BWC $3,525 in restitution. He made a $1,000 payment at sentencing.

Deborah Rosenlieb of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Rosenlieb pleaded guilty May 9 in Summit County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony, after investigators found her collecting her late father’s BWC benefits for two years. A judge ordered her to pay BWC $29,418 in restitution and serve two years of community service.

Jesse Lemaster, dba Lemaster Tree Care, Springfield, Ohio
Lemaster pleaded guilty May 8 to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors, for operating his business without a valid BWC policy. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail on each charge, which was suspended pending a July 10 hearing, at which time he is to prove to the court he has valid workers’ compensation coverage.

Natasha Mitchum of Youngstown, Ohio
Mitchum pleaded guilty May 2 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her working as a call center employee/customer service representative while receiving disability benefits. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for three years of community control, and ordered to pay BWC $1,863 in restitution.

John Griggy of Canton, Ohio
Griggy pleaded guilty May 1 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working as a self-employed electrician while receiving BWC benefits. Prior to sentencing, Griggy paid BWC full restitution in the amount of $54,220.

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