We’ll see you at the NE Ohio Safety Expo!

By Dave Costantino, BWC Loss Prevention Supervisor

It’s hard to believe our NE Ohio Safety Expo is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year. It seems like just yesterday we were planning the first one!

With 40 sessions covering a wide variety of workplace safety topics and with an exciting lineup of exhibitors, this year’s event is bigger and better than ever.

We’ll cover everything from Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates and the opioid crisis to managing workers’ comp claims and workplace wellness programs.

This year’s event is Oct. 11 at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. Registration is now open. Because sessions fill up fast, I encourage you to register and pre-pay by Oct. 4.

You can view the complete list of educational sessions and access the registration form here. The cost is $30 and includes a light continental breakfast and box lunch.

Like last year, the expo will offer free and confidential biometric health screenings to eligible attendees as part of our Better You, Better Ohio!® program. Workers who work for small employers (150 or fewer workers) in high-risk industries* are eligible to participate in the program. You can check if you’re eligible to participate here.

I’m proud to lead the dedicated team that puts on the expo, an event that helps make Ohio workers and workplaces safer and healthier.

I hope to see you there!

*Agriculture; automotive repair and service; construction; firefighters; health care; manufacturing; police and public safety; public employers; restaurant and food service; transportation and trucking; trash collection; wholesale and retail

Ten ways to take action for National Preparedness Month

Whether natural or man-made, disaster can strike at any time. Which is why it’s so important to be prepared.

Next week marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month, so it’s a great time to check on your planning – at home and in the workplace. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this year’s theme is Prepared, Not Scared. Weekly themes cover everything from saving early for disaster costs to teaching children to be prepared.

From fires and floods to devastating tornadoes like those that touched down in Ohio earlier this year, there are simple steps you can take to be ready when disaster strikes. Below are some tips to help you and your workplace be more prepared and resilient.

  1. Sign up for local alerts and warnings, download apps, and check access for wireless emergency alerts.
  2. Create and practice emergency communication and action plans.
  3. Participate in a preparedness training or class.
  4. Learn lifesaving skills, such as CPR and first aid.
  5. Assemble or update emergency supplies, including flashlights, batteries, food, water, and medicine.
  6. Collect and safeguard critical documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.
  7. Document property and check your insurance policies for relevant hazards, such as flood, fire, and tornadoes.
  8. Consider the costs associated with disasters and save for emergencies.
  9. Make property improvements to reduce potential injury and property damage.
  10. Plan with neighbors to help each other and share resources.

Studies show that when employers urge workers to prepare for disasters, employees are 75% more likely to take preparedness actions.

Don’t wait until a disaster or emergency strikes. Take action now to protect yourself, your family and your workplace and be prepared for anything.

Big news! Your Safety Innovation could be worth $10,000

BWC increases prize amount for annual awards

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Have you thought about applying for our Safety Innovation Awards in years past but put it off or forgot to do it? We have at least 4,000 more reasons for you to not delay any further!

To encourage applications and reward innovation more than ever, we have raised the prize amounts for our 2020 Safety Innovation Awards. The top prize is now $10,000, up from $6,000! Second place receives $6,000, third place $4,000, and honorable mention receives $1,500.

Our Safety Innovation Awards celebrate creative solutions that improve the safety and health in Ohio workplaces. Examples of innovations include:

  • Technological advancements.
  • Creative use of existing equipment.
  • Unique processes and practices.
  • Development of new equipment.

If your organization has developed any of the above to reduce the workplace risks faced by Ohio workers, we want to hear from you. Don’t wait, you have only until Sept. 30 to apply.

Winners in past years include a Mercer County company that captured first place with a device it developed for loading hogs into a trailer with minimal stress to the hogs and potential for injury to workers. Last year, the Springfield company Navistar captured first place with a robotic system that minimized worker exposure to a particularly strenuous procedure involved in the tearing down and welding of truck cabs.

This year’s finalists will receive the previously-mentioned cash awards and statewide recognition at our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 11-13, 2020. You can check out descriptions of all the 2019 finalists’ innovations here.

We hope the past finalists and their ideas will inspire you to apply for the 2020 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 innovations!

Ohio trucker, others convicted of workers’ comp fraud

Marysville man kept truckin’ while collecting disability benefits

A Marysville truck driver was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday after the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discovered he continued to work while collecting BWC benefits for a workplace injury he suffered more than a decade ago.

Everett Ferryman, 46, pleaded guilty in a Franklin County courtroom to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge ordered Ferryman to pay BWC $22,851 in restitution and serve probation for five years or until restitution was paid, whichever came first. She also imposed a suspended sentence of a year in prison.

“The law is clear — our benefits are for workers who are truly injured,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “They’re not a support system for people trying to cheat BWC and Ohio employers.”

Acting on a tip in 2017, BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Ferryman working as a truck driver while collecting BWC benefits from at least March 27, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2017. He was injured as a truck driver in May 2008 and had received temporary disability benefits from BWC periodically since then.

In other news
The owner of a Central Ohio landscaping company was ordered to pay BWC $9,888 in restitution Aug. 7 after investigators found he continued to work for his company while collecting BWC benefits for nearly a year and a half.

Robert J. McWhorter of New Albany pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom. A judge sentenced McWhorter to one year of probation in lieu of six months in jail. He has paid his restitution in full.

Also in recent news, BWC’s Special Investigations Department secured five fraud-related convictions in July, bringing total convictions for calendar year 2019 to 54. Those convicted include:

James Coon of Akron, dba James Coon Construction
Coon pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter July 24 after one of his workers fell to his death in late 2017. He also pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC found Coon lacked workers’ comp coverage when his employee died and that he repeatedly lied about his business over the years to minimize his premiums or avoid paying them altogether. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Jacci Richards of Toledo/dba Acorns to Oaks
Richards pleaded no contest but was found guilty July 16 to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of failure to comply after BWC found her operating a now-closed day care center without workers’ compensation coverage. A judge ordered her to pay $99 in court costs.

R. Gregory Lawrence of Euclid, dba Lakeshore Coffee House Inc.
BWC found Lawrence was operating Lakeshore Coffee House Inc. with lapsed BWC coverage. Lawrence pleaded guilty July 11 in Euclid Municipal Court to two counts of disorderly conduct, both minor misdemeanors. Lawrence was fined $200. Prior to the court date, Lawrence paid the balance he owed BWC and brought his policy into compliance.

Scott Laird of Cambridge
Laird pleaded guilty July 10 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working while collecting BWC benefits. A judge ordered Laird to pay BWC $3,113 in restitution and sentenced him to two years of probation in lieu of 90 days in jail.

Cynthia Gribble of New Philadelphia
Gribble pleaded guilty July 1 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her working as a home health care aide while collecting BWC benefits. A judge ordered her to pay BWC $7,328 in restitution and serve six months of probation in lieu of 90 days in jail.

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

Ohio BWC honored to host national conference

Thank you to everyone who helped make it a success

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Almost 500 workers’ comp professionals traveled to Cleveland the week of July 21 for the 2019 American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF) Annual Conference. We are happy to report the conference was a resounding success!

A different state fund hosts the conference each year, and we had the honor of hosting this year. Our staff helped with planning and were on site at the conference to make sure everything went smoothly.

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud kicked off the event by welcoming guests to Ohio!

The best part of the conference was workers’ comp professionals coming together to share best practices and discuss our common issues. AASCIF has members from 26 states, plus eight workers’ comp boards in Canada.

This year, members of the Puerto Rico workers’ comp fund attended the conference. The combined experience and expertise in one place was unparalleled.

We had great keynote speakers, including several with Ohio ties. Brad Hurtig, who spoke about his journey after losing both of his hands in a devasting workplace accident. In addition, Sam Quinones – author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” – spoke about the deadly drug scourge plaguing our country.

There were also sessions on topics such as medical marijuana, customer service, the state of the economy, and national workers’ compensation issues.

When the annual communication award winners were announced, we were pleased to find ourselves in the winner’s circle among many of our peers including Pinnacol Assurance, Texas Mutual Insurance Company, Oregon’s State Accident Insurance Fund, California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund, Missouri Employers Mutual, Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, Minnesota’s State Fund Mutual Insurance Co., North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance, The Beacon Mutual Insurance Co. and Montana State Fund.

We accepted awards in the following categories:

  • Open Category: First Place for the 2019 Medical & Health Symposium.
  • Events: Second Place for the 2019 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.
  • Excellence in Writing: Third Place for “Safety Pays for Columbus Brewery.”

In closing, we’d like to offer a huge THANK YOU to the AASCIF core team, sponsors, attendees, presenters and BWC ambassadors for making the 2019 AASCIF Annual Conference a success!

Next year, the Colorado state fund, Pinnacol Assurance, will host the conference in Denver. We’ll see you there!

‘Walking down grain’ is a deadly operation (Don’t do it)

Two workplace deaths in July heighten awareness for grain bin safety

By Bruce Loughner CSP, BWC Technical Safety Advisor

This is my second blog post on deadly grain bin accidents this year, and I hope it’s the last.

But as a safety professional for the state of Ohio, I feel obligated to spread the word on grain bin safety precautions following the tragic loss of two lives at a Toledo grain facility July 19.

I don’t know all the details surrounding the accident that claimed the lives of a 29-year-old Rossford man and a 56-year-old Perrysburg man that hot Friday afternoon, but according to news reports the two men died when they climbed inside a grain silo to break up compacted grain and unplug a blocked hole. This is a hazardous process known as “walking down grain.” The two were engulfed in grain and suffocated.

OSHA prohibits “walking down grain” and similar practices in flat storage structures. Regulations also limit employee access, entry and work in any grain storage bin. When permitted, the standards require strict hazard control measures and training for all employees assigned tasks that require bin entry. OSHA has a variety of resources that explain the deadly hazards associated with grain handling operations.

In a March 2019 BWC Blog post, I spoke about a grain bin accident that occurred years ago when three young boys entered a grain bin to break up stored corn so that it could flow. The two employees in Toledo were performing a similar task.

News reports indicate emergency responders had early contact with one of the trapped workers. Unfortunately, the rescue turned into a recovery operation as time passed and the grain suffocated the two employees. The hazards are well known, and environmental conditions are ripe for grain to bridge and develop air pockets.

Two other recent grain-bin deaths in Ohio involved a 20-year-old worker being caught in an auger and a 68-year-old farmer being engulfed in a bin. Each death was preventable. New innovations in equipment with proper training and knowledge can be used to complete the task without ever entering the grain bins.  All grain handling deaths and serious injuries can be prevented.

As the first line of defense, BWC encourages eliminating hazards through engineering control measures, including mechanical raking devices, proper ventilation for dust and mold control, and the use of vibrating mechanisms to break up bridged grain.

Prior to entering a grain bin, take the following precautions:

  • Conduct a job safety analysis to identify specific hazards and to determine the best course of action for eliminating or controlling the hazards using engineering controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment.
  • Treat the grain bin as a confined space and develop specific procedures for determining if it is safe to enter, how to enter, how to work safely in the space, and how to get out safely in the event of an emergency. Develop a communication and rescue plan.
  • Develop a program and procedures for lock out and tag out of all energy sources. Never allow employees to enter the grain bin while the auger is activated or when it could become activated.
  • Provide the appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. respirator, safety harness, and lifeline) depending on the hazards that might be encountered. Train employees how to use it properly.
  • Contact the local fire department for assistance in developing rescue procedures. Practice self-rescue and other rescue procedures.
  • Train and educate employees engaged in grain bin operations by emphasizing hazards and safety procedures.

Whether you operate a small farm or a large handling and storage operation for exporting grain, a BWC consultant can assist you.

We provide on-site consultations to assess hazards, identify engineering and other control measures, and make you aware of federal and state requirements.

In addition, we can help with the development of site-specific safety procedures, training and educational resources to address the deadly hazards associated with grain bin operations.

Check out this BWC brochure for additional information. For more on the July 19 tragedy, read this story from the Toledo Blade.

Akron business owner convicted of manslaughter, workers’ comp fraud

Company has history of worker injuries, noncompliance with BWC

The owner of an Akron construction company pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter July 24 after one of his workers fell to his death in late 2017.

James D. Coon, the owner of James Coon Construction, also pleaded guilty in a Summit County courtroom to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud. Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) found Coon lacked BWC coverage when his employee died and that he repeatedly lied about his business to minimize his premiums or avoid paying them altogether.

“This tragic case underscores the critical importance for workplace safety protocols and workers’ compensation insurance,” said BWC Administrator Stephanie McCloud. “Our investigation found Mr. Coon willfully and deliberately disregarded his responsibilities under the law, and now several lives are devastated by it.”

Gerardo “Jerry” Juarez Sr., a 39-year-old married father of five, died Nov. 4, 2017, at the scene of his fall. It was his second day on the job. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration notified BWC of the accident four days later.

According to BWC’s special investigations department, Juarez was working on a sloped roof of a 3-story apartment complex without a fall protection device when he slipped and fell 25 feet to his death. Among the investigation’s findings:

  • Two other Coon employees were injured in falls prior to Juarez’s death, also during a time when Coon lacked BWC coverage.
  • Coon told BWC he no longer operated his business. But in March 2018 — five months after Juarez’s death — agents observed six Coon employees at a worksite tearing shingles from a roof. They had no safety equipment.
  • Coon consistently reported to BWC over the years of having no employees. A BWC audit found nearly $286,000 in payroll to employees from July 1, 2009 through July 1, 2018.

Coon owes BWC $303,152 to date for unpaid premiums and claims costs for workers injured during a policy lapse. His conviction for involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Sentencing is set for August 21.

BWC safety services and grants: BWC offers free safety consultations and grant dollars to assist employers with the purchase of equipment that improves workplace safety. For more, visit bwc.ohio.gov and click on the Safety & Training link.

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

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