Tennessee man’s false injury claim costs him $33K

Ohio BWC releases latest fraud convictions

A Tennessee man pleaded guilty to felony workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 9 after collecting more than $33,000 from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for a work injury he falsely claimed occurred in Ohio.

Roger Frankenberg, 60, of Sevierville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A judge sentenced him to 11 months in jail, suspended for five years of probation, and ordered Frankenberg to pay BWC $33,210 in restitution.

“As many fraudsters discover, ripping off this agency clearly doesn’t pay, thanks to the good work of our Special Investigations Department,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Not only does Mr. Frankenberg owe us $33,000, he has a felony record.”

 Acting on a tip, BWC discovered Frankenberg had returned to work for his self-owned company, Custom Renovations and Beyond Inc., while receiving BWC disability benefits from December 2015 until December 2016.

 Further investigation determined Frankenberg sustained his injury in Pennsylvania, not Ohio. But because he didn’t have insurance coverage in Pennsylvania, he fabricated a BWC claim so he could have his medical bills covered and collect indemnity payments.

In a separate case on Sept. 9, a Columbus woman pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found she had returned to work but didn’t tell the agency so she could continue to receive disability benefits.

Deborah Chenault pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud and was ordered to pay BWC $6,000 in restitution. A three-month jail term was suspended for five years of probation.

In other news, BWC secured three fraud-related convictions in August, bringing its 2020 calendar year total to 51. They include a case involving a Dayton man who stole a near $4,000 check BWC had sent his employer.

 

  • Eric Walker-Mabry of Dayton pleaded guilty Aug. 25 to one count each of theft of property, theft, and forgery, all fifth-degree felonies. A Montgomery County judge ordered Walker-Mabry to pay BWC $3,707 in restitution and sentenced him to five years of probation. BWC issued a full refund to the employer.

 

  • Danny Mitchell of Clarksburg, West Virginia, dba Mitchell Drilling Inc., pleaded no contest Aug. 18 in Tuscarawas County to one minor misdemeanor count of failure to comply and was found guilty after BWC found him operating his business in Ohio without BWC coverage. A judge waived fines and court costs. Mitchell Drilling paid BWC its outstanding premiums and is no longer operating in Ohio.

 

  • Nina Washington of Dayton must pay BWC $4,616 in restitution after pleading guilty Aug. 17 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A Franklin County judge also sentenced Washington to five years of probation for collecting disability benefits after she returned to work. Washington paid $500 toward her restitution the morning of her sentencing.

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

 

My family’s trauma changed my world

Thankfully, so did Kids’ Chance of Ohio

By Malerie Mysza

I remember the last truly happy moments I spent with my father. I was 4, and we sat watching cartoons and laughing in the living room of our home in Cleveland. Soon after, he suffered brain injuries and blindness from an on-the-job accident. My father as I knew him no longer existed.

Brian Mysza suffered brain injuries and blindness from an on-the-job accident. His son, Sam, walks beside him.

At age 5, I visited him in his new nursing home on Easter. I asked him to come hunt for eggs with me, but when I offered him my arm to come along, he grabbed and twisted it painfully. I wasn’t allowed near him after that.

Experiencing a trauma like that as a child forever changed me. It made me want to do something to help him and others who were living with similar brain injuries. But when you lose more than half your family income and your mom stops working in order to care for her five children, how do you finance such an ambitious goal?

Searching for scholarships, I discovered Kids’ Chance of Ohio. The nonprofit organization offers scholarships to children of workers who have been permanently disabled or fatally injured on the job. Kids’ Chance awarded me $18,000 over five years. Combined with local scholarships and other public financial assistance, it covered the costs of my undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. When I say Kids’ Chance made my educational dreams possible, it’s no exaggeration.

Brian Mysza, before the accident, with daughter Ashley.

This spring I graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. I now hope to complete my master’s in Occupational Therapy at UC, with an anticipated graduation date of 2022.

The joy I experienced on my graduation day was surreal. Nine-year-old me, who asked my mom if she could get my dad exercise bands so he wouldn’t just sit in a chair and rock back and forth all day, was ecstatic. My 10-year-old self, who tried to figure out how to make treadmills brain-injury friendly during a fourth-grade invention discussion, was so proud.

The Myszas celebrate Christmas at Longhorn Steakhouse in 2018. From left, Malerie’s father Brian and mother Laura, sister Alanna, Malerie, sisters Ashley and Adriana, and brother Sam. Brian currently resides in a brain injury rehab facility in Pittsburgh.

And the adult me finds herself one step closer to fulfilling her lifelong goal – opening a rehabilitation facility that specializes in brain injuries, where  practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” instead of “What’s the matter with you?”

My college experience was wonderful inspiration and training for my future.

  • I interned for the Cincinnati nonprofit InReturn, leading a life skills class for brain injury survivors.
  • I volunteered for the rehabilitation department in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
  • I started a nonprofit organization, GIVE at UC, to promote sustainability and encourage volunteerism abroad.
  • And I took two life-changing mission trips to Nicaragua and Thailand, where I worked with children, built schools, was involved with turtle conservation and worked in an elephant hospital.

Malerie Mysza teaches English to children in Chiang Dao, Thailand, during a mission trip from May to June 2019.

Without Kids’ Chance, none of this would have been possible. I always say the most important thing is time and how you make the most of it. Kids’ Chance of Ohio’s altruism and generosity has – so far – given me the most life-affirming time of all.

I am beyond happy. And somewhere deep inside, I hope my father is too.

If you would like to support Kids’ Chance of Ohio or know someone who can benefit from its scholarships, please visit https://kidschanceohio.org.

 

 

Video surveillance exposes Sidney couple’s scheme to defraud BWC

Agency closes 11 cases in June, July

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) closed 11 cases involving workers’ compensation fraud and related charges in June and July, bringing total convictions for BWC to 47 for calendar year 2020.

“Workers’ compensation fraud can happen anywhere in Ohio,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “That’s why we have dedicated investigators in every corner of the state to uncover folks — whether they’re employers, injured workers or medical providers — who try to cheat the system.”

Among the June cases is a Sidney, Ohio, couple sentenced on felony charges related to workers’ compensation fraud after a BWC investigation found the husband mowing lawns, using a snow blower, and chopping wood while claiming to be permanently and totally disabled from work.

A Shelby County judge sentenced David Juillerat on June 8 to five years of probation in lieu of jail time and a fine of $1,000 for his conviction on a reduced charge of attempted tampering with records, a fourth-degree felony. Juillerat’s wife, Wendy Juillerat, was sentenced three days earlier on a similar charge, attempted complicity to tampering with records, also a fourth-degree felony. A judge sentenced her to five years of probation in lieu of jail time and to pay court costs.

David Juillerat applied to BWC in 2018 for permanent total disability benefits, claiming a work injury left him unable to drive a car or walk without the assistance of a walker. Acting on a tip that he might be faking his injury, agents with BWC’s Special Investigations Department surveilled David for several weeks in 2019. They filmed him on multiple occasions entering and leaving medical offices with a walker. Away from a medical office, however, agents filmed him walking, shopping, working on his car, chopping wood, and other activities, all without the use of a cane or walker.

As for Wendy Juillerat, agents say she admitted to helping her husband complete his application for permanent total disability and accompanied him to numerous doctor’s appointments in which she would exaggerate his physical limitations in order for the disability to be granted.

Based on BWC’s investigation, David Juillerat’s application for disability benefits was denied in late 2019, saving BWC an estimated $233,668 in benefits over the projected life of the claim.

Other cases in June and July include:

Joseph Ferguson of Toledo

Ferguson pleaded guilty July 24 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after a BWC investigation revealed he was working as a web development supervisor while receiving benefits from BWC from October 2017 to January 2018. The judge sentenced Ferguson to five years of community control and ordered him to pay restitution of $6,473 to BWC. If he violates the terms of his community control, he will serve 60 days in jail.

Ruth Asamoah of Columbus

On July 13, Asamoah pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, for working while receiving BWC disability benefits. BWC investigators found Asamoah worked for eight employers, performing the same or similar jobs she was doing when she was injured. A Franklin County judge ordered her to pay $15,020 in restitution and sentenced her to an 11-month jail sentence, suspended for five years of probation.

Jeffrey Berkley of Taylor, Michigan

BWC investigators found Berkley working as a driver, transporting cars around the Midwest, while receiving BWC benefits from July 2014 to September 2014. On July 7, Berkley pleaded guilty in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. The judge sentenced him to a 12-month suspended jail sentence and ordered him to pay restitution of $2,668 to BWC. Berkley paid the full amount of restitution to the clerk of courts prior to the plea.

Marguerite Cervantes of Perrysburg

Cervantes pleaded guilty July 2 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A BWC investigation revealed Cervantes had returned to work as a clinical nurse from April to October 2016 while collecting temporary total disability benefits. The judge sentenced her to an 11-month suspended jail sentence, five years of probation, and ordered her to pay restitution of $16,885.

Angela Berardelli of North Canton

A BWC investigation revealed Berardelli was working at a restaurant while receiving BWC benefits from January 2016 to June 2017. On June 30, Berardelli pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. She received a sentence of 90 days in jail suspended for 12 months of community control. The judge ordered Berardelli to pay restitution of $10,194 to BWC. She made a payment of $6,500 at the time of plea.

Patricia Black of Cincinnati

Black pleaded guilty June 16 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. An investigation by BWC found Black working as an office cleaner while receiving BWC benefits from January 2018 to October 2018. Black was ordered to pay $18,407 in restitution and sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for three years of non-reporting community control.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 (Option 4, Option 0, Option 1) or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

At BWC, we still have your safety needs covered

By Bernie Silkowski, Superintendent, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

Like every other Ohio employer, we have had to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working from home to slow the spread of the virus, but our Division of Safety & Hygiene still offers plenty of resources to keep Ohio’s workplaces and workers safe. 

Although we are not making on-site visits, we are assisting thousands of employers virtually. We can do this for you, too. We have created a list of resources and FAQs to help Ohio businesses restart safely in conjunction with the Responsible RestartOhio initiative. The following are other options we offer.

Online safety courses and webinars  

With many still working from home, online courses are an excellent option to teach workers about workplace safety. We offer free online safety training courses and weekly webinars on a wide variety of topics.Online course times range from 30 minutes to approximately two hours. To get started, register for courses and webinars online using the BWC Learning Center, or call 1-800-644-6292.

Join a safety council – virtually

Although our Ohio safety council partners are not currently offering in-person meetings, the vast majority will be offering virtual meetings throughout the program year. These virtual meetings are another way to stay up to date on safety practices and to learn new methods for protecting your workers. We’ve also modified some aspects of the program to reduce the burden on employers as they face the challenges of reopening and maintaining economic viability.  Contact your local safety council to learn more.

Virtual safety consultations – Be proactive in making your workplace safe

With such an intense focus on protecting workers from COVID-19, it’s easy to miss other hazards in your workplace that can cause harm. BWC’s specialists can provide virtual consultative services in the areas of industrial safety, construction safety, ergonomics, and industrial hygiene. Every employer is eligible to use these services. We can talk on the phone or do a video chat depending on your preferences. You can also send us pictures, videos, or a written safety program to review and make recommendations. You can request a consultation through our website or by calling 1-800-644-6292.

Public employers can also take advantage of the specialized virtual consulting services of the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program (PERRP). In fact, right now PERRP is scheduling virtual safety training about work zones, tree operations, confined spaces, and trenching and excavation. If you have questions or need assistance, please request a consultation through our website, send an email to Perrprequest@ohio.gov, or call 1-800-671-6858.

For small- to medium-sized, private employers in high-hazard industries, the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program is also available to help with specialized virtual consulting. You can request a consultation through our website or call 1-800-282-1425.

Library reference services and streaming safety videos

Our library staff is working remotely and has access to materials to help you with your safety questions. The library’s streaming video services are available 24 hours a day/seven days a week for remote viewing from any computer. Our selection of online streaming videos covers a range of popular safety and human resource topics. Email us at library@bwc.state.oh.us for information about any of these services.

Better You, Better Ohio!® – workplace health and wellness program

Better You, Better Ohio! is a free health and wellness program for eligible public and private workers. It provides online education and resources you and your employees can access online or on your phone. The program offers information on healthy eating, exercise, and stress management, as well as tips for handling the changes we are all facing. Also, eligible workers can complete an online health assessment, request a biometric screening kit to complete at home, and receive a $75 incentive in the mail! Email BWCBetterYouBetterOhio@bwc.state.oh.us with questions.

Thank you for being our partners in helping keep Ohio’s workers safe. For more information about Ohio’s response to COVID-19, please visit The Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 website or contact them via phone at 1-833-4ASKODH.

For BWC-specific COVID-19 questions, visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions or email BWCCOVID19@bwc.state.oh.us.

We’re here and ready to help, so reach out to us today!

Dayton claims representative is BWC’s Fraud Finder of the Year

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

A claims service specialist (CSS) in our Dayton Service Office is our 2019 Fraud Finder of the Year award winner.

We can’t name the employee because we don’t publicly identify our fraud tipsters, but this longtime BWC veteran tipped us off about a claimant collecting disability benefits after going to prison for shooting a SWAT officer.

“Thanks to this employee’s actions, we were able to save the BWC system more than $2 million,” said Jim Wernecke, director of our Special Investigations Department (SID), referring to the estimated cost over the life of the claim.

With characteristic humility, the CSS, who referred five other allegations to SID during fiscal year 2019, said, “I was just doing my job.”

About a fourth of the nearly 3,000 fraud allegations we received in fiscal year 2019 came from BWC personnel around the state. These included claims representatives, employer representatives, and others who suspected illicit behavior on the part of injured workers, employers, health-care providers or others connected to Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. Our investigations led to an estimated $5.9 million in savings to the BWC system.

“We encourage all BWC employees and the general public to contact us immediately if they suspect fraudulent behavior in our system, even the slightest hint of it,” said Director Wernecke. “We will conduct a thorough investigation, and the sooner we get started, the better.”

To report suspected cases of workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 (then select option 0, option 4, option 1) or visit www.bwc.ohio.gov.

BWC safety grants protect worker health, save employers time, money

NIOSH-BWC study published in industry journal

By Steve Naber, Ph.D., BWC Business Intelligence and Analytics Manager

For more than 10 years, our Division of Safety & Hygiene has enjoyed the benefits of being in a cooperative research program with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Through the program, we share claims with personal information removed and employer data with NIOSH and assist its researchers in various studies that use our data. Working together, we recently completed a study to evaluate the effectiveness of construction equipment Ohio employers purchased using our Safety Intervention Grant program from 2003 to 2016.

The findings

Though the study did not conduct a complete cost-benefit analysis, the data suggest our safety grants help improve worker safety and may also lead to cost savings for Ohio construction industry employers. In terms of cost savings, the study found:

  • An average productivity savings of $24,462 per grant.
  • The average savings due to less rework was $2,931 per grant.
  • The average savings due to reduced absenteeism was $859 per grant.

It also found equipment for cable pulling in electrical trades to be among the most effective. 

Other equipment scoring highly included concrete sawing equipment, skid steering attachments for concrete breaking, and boom lifts. The study’s results appear in the April edition of the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. You can read the article here.

The objective

The objective of the study was to apply a systematic method to identify the types of construction equipment that were more effective in improving the safety and health of workers. The study’s authors focused on the construction industry because “it is a high-risk industry, and construction employers need more information about effective solutions (interventions) to address safety and health.”

The methodology

The researchers evaluated 153 construction industry safety grants, totaling $6.5 million in equipment costs. The study placed the grants into 24 groups based on the function of the equipment purchased. The analysis emphasized equipment that was purchased in multiple grants and that had high scores for both risk reduction for work-related musculoskeletal disorders and quality of information contained in the safety grant reports.

We provided the data for the study, which included pre-grant and post-grant claims information and employer survey results regarding risk-factor abatement, equipment effectiveness, employee acceptance, and the effects on productivity. The research team developed an evaluation system that assigned scores to each grant based on the quality of the information employers provided addressing these factors. The team then tallied the component scores in these categories to get a total score for each grant that reflected the quality of the information and the equipment effectiveness. BWC researchers also contributed by reviewing and assisting in the development of the scoring system and in preparing the study’s manuscript.

Conclusion

This study supports our belief that employers will see long-term cost savings when they invest in workplace safety. More importantly, investing in safety protects the health and well-being of workers throughout our state. That’s why we’ve been offering these grants to Ohio employers for more than 15 years.  

NIOSH researchers contributing to the study and paper include Brian Lowe, James Albers, Marie Hayden, and Steve Wurzelbacher; BWC’s contributors are Mike Lampl and Steve Naber.

BWC honors five Ohio employers for workplace safety innovations

By Jeff Hutchins, Manager, BWC Quality Assurance & Technical Safety Support

We recently awarded cash prizes to five Ohio employers as part of our annual Safety Innovation Awards. We typically announce the winners at our annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, which did not take place as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.    

The awards recognize a handful of Ohio employers for developing innovative solutions to safety concerns in their workplaces. Because in-person judging did not happen at safety congress, we made the decision to award the five finalists $3,500 each.

More recently, we decided to place the awards on hiatus for 2021. We will use this time to review the program and prepare to return for 2022. 

“The COVID-19 emergency has forced us to adapt the way we do many things, including our Safety Innovation Awards,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Even though we couldn’t provide these finalists the usual ceremony at safety congress, we applaud them for their innovative spirit and commitment to protecting their workers.”

This week, we’ve been posting videos on social media about this year’s award winners. If you missed them, you can learn about all the award winners below.

Diversified Fall Protection (Westlake) – Portable Truss Anchor

Diversified Fall Protection engineers, manufacturers, and distributes fall-protection equipment.

In an industrial setting, working at a height above machinery poses a fall hazard. Unstable ladders and limited styles of fall protection when working in such an environment are ineffective. Contributing to this hazard is the practice of tying off to structures that are not capable of supporting the load if a fall does take place.

This innovation is a portable personal fall protection anchor that installs quickly overhead into the opening of the bottom chord of a roof application. The Portable Truss Anchor uses the overhead truss system in a building to create an Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant anchorage point for working in high places. Unlike permanently attached fall protection anchor systems that require a self-retracting lanyard at each location, the Portable Truss Anchor is an alternative solution that installs in minutes – where and when workers need it.

More than 1,000 workers currently use the Portable Truss Anchor with no reported fall-related injures associated with its use.

Watch a video about Diversified Fall Protection’s Portable Truss Anchor on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Fort Amanda Specialties (Lima) – Custom Cleaning-in-Place Safety Solution

Fort Amanda Specialties LLC is a joint venture of Nouryon and BASF Corporation. It is a chemical producer of high-quality chelates.

The production process uses transport screws to move solid product in a multi-product processing unit. Cleaning out these screws during product changes created safety exposures as workers had to remove the lids to wash the screws. This exposed workers to unguarded moving machinery, high-pressure water spray, and slip hazards from overspray on walking-working surfaces.

The company designed custom-made wash lids with Plexiglass windows for inspection as well as permanently mounted spray nozzles inside.  

The solution eliminates contact with moving equipment and exposure to high-pressure water. The enclosure contains wash water, reducing water use and eliminating slip hazards.

Watch a video about Fort Amanda Specialties’ Custom Cleaning-in-Place Solution on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Mt. Vernon City Schools (Knox County) – Rapid Barricade

Mt. Vernon City Schools is a school district serving 3,800 students at six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and a digital academy. 

If a school or other public building experiences a threat, most will activate a lock-down procedure. Door locking devices must be easy to deploy and remove and must withstand extreme force. Some locking devices do not comply with building/fire codes, require facility modifications to install or tools to deploy, and some require workers to verify deployment from a public area (i.e. the hallway), which exposes them to the threat.

The need was for a temporary door-locking device that meets all the fire code and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and was always available, not stored somewhere.

School maintenance personnel worked with a local machine shop to create the now-patented Rapid Barricade. Workers can install the Rapid Barricade on any ADA-compliant door. It deploys in seconds and can withstand 1,200 pounds of force.

Watch a video about Mount Vernon City Schools’ Rapid Barricade on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

TFO Tech Co., LTD (Jeffersonville) – Furnace Pulley Unloader

TFO Tech Co. LTD produces automotive wheel hubs, crankshafts, CVT pulleys, and other parts.

Workers had to manually rake 10- to 13-pound parts approximately 2.5 feet into a bin as the parts exited the heat treat furnace. The parts coming from the furnace are near 300 degrees Celsius, meaning excessive heat was a hazard. The raking motion also exposed workers to ergonomic hazards – shoulder, elbow, back, and chest were the main areas of the body affected.

The innovation drops down and encloses the parts in a steel frame. The frame slides the product off the side of the conveyor and into the basket. Rather than manually raking the parts, workers complete the process with the push of a button. This removes the physical (ergonomic) aspect of the process and reduces the employees’ heat exposure because the operator’s panel is about 5 feet farther from the hot parts than the original operating position.

Watch a video about TFO Tech Co., LTD.’s Furnace Pulley Unloader on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America (Hamilton) – Near Miss Reporting App

thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America manufactures shock absorbers for high-performance automobiles, motorsports, and off-road vehicles.

In a manufacturing facility that works around the clock with nearly 700 employees, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions were occurring. Unfortunately, they were often not reported, nor addressed. Before implementation, workers reported an average of four near misses per month, most coming from a few supervisors. Reporting was a cumbersome process, requiring the worker to download a four-page document from the intranet before completing it, printing it, and having it signed by multiple people.

This innovation changed the reporting process from a tedious paper document to a short, quick, and easy electronic submission via app. The company developed it using web-based software called Smartsheet. Now, any worker can submit the online form in the app, which inputs the information into a database similar to an Excel spreadsheet.

Near miss reports have increased from approximately 48 per year to more than 500 per year. The company’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable rate dropped from 3.03 to .91, and its lost-time accident rate dropped from 3.61 to 0.

Watch a video about thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America’s Near Miss Reporting App on BWC’s YouTube Channel.

Customers show us the love during COVID-19

BWC’s economic, health and safety initiatives draw high praise

By Winnie Warren, BWC Interim Chief of Employer Services

Working for the state of Ohio, we all know our job is to serve our fellow Ohioans and hopefully make a positive difference in their lives, so it’s gratifying when our colleagues and leaders take note — an email or video message from Administrator Stephanie McCloud, for instance, or a nod from Governor Mike DeWine at his daily press briefings.

But it’s doubly rewarding when the people you serve reach out and thank you themselves. We’ve received many emails, phone calls and social media posts in recent weeks praising our efforts to help business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic. One call in particular stands out. It was from Heather Baines, the founder and president of HR Construction Services LLC in Cleveland.

Heather Baines, founder and president, HR Construction Services in Cleveland

Heather wanted to personally thank us for two things — a check she received in late April for $9,450, her company’s share of the $1.6 billion dividend we sent to Ohio employers to ease the impact of COVID-19 on their bottom line. She also appreciated the box of 50 face coverings we sent her as part of our Protecting Ohio’s Workforce – We’ve got you covered initiative.

She said both were blessings at a critical time.

“Between the financial help and the masks, it almost made me want to cry because it shows I’m not forgotten,” Heather said. “There have been some terrible days – days where I questioned, ‘What am I doing and why am I still doing this?’”

Heather told me about her business, that all the reasons she started her company — to hire local contractors and bring diversity to jobsites in her hometown while growing a minority-owned business — were coming to fruition. Then the pandemic hit and made a mess of everything.

Getting that check from BWC meant everything, she said. It meant she could pay her workers, her office rent, purchase jobsite materials and fund her employees’ benefits. (Nearly 200,000 Ohio employers received a dividend, which roughly equaled their entire BWC premium in policy year 2018.)

“We’re still new in the construction industry, so paying on time is huge for me,” said Heather, who founded her company in 2015. “That’s a great reputation to have. The money goes out as quick as it comes in, but that check was tremendous and made a big difference.”

The face coverings were another godsend, she said. In late May we started sending at least 2 million face coverings to employers across the state to weaken COVID-19’s spread. We’re not billing employers for this initiative. At less than a dollar a piece, we’re picking up the tab from this year’s budget.

Heather told me her employees had been wearing disposable masks that cost her up to $5 a piece, and they were using the same one on multiple days because supply was hard to find. Her neighbor, who was making masks for health care workers, made some for Heather’s employees, too. Then BWC’s shipment arrived.

“It meant a whole lot that my company was a part of the distribution,” she said. “So often things are given to larger companies, and it’s the smaller ones that can really use the help.”

Thank you to Heather for sharing her story. We’re so glad our mission and agency values of providing superior customer service show up in a myriad of ways. We’re proud to serve Ohioans every day, but especially in their greatest time of need.

Crew members of HR Construction Services in Cleveland wear face coverings provided by BWC while working on an overpass in Cleveland.

Stand down focuses on keeping workers safe in trenches

By Michael Marr, BWC Safety Technical Resources Consultant

In February, a 34-year-old worker died when a trench he was working in collapsed in Licking County. Just last month, a trench collapse killed two workers in Starkville, Mississippi.

Unfortunately, these tragic incidents are reminders of the potential dangers of trenching and excavation work. However, most trenching injuries and fatalities are preventable with proper training and safety equipment.

The 2020 Trench Safety Stand Down, scheduled for June 15-19 and sponsored by the National Utility Contractors Association, gives employers an opportunity to talk directly to their workforce and others about trenching and excavation hazards and to reinforce the importance of protecting workers from them.

The Trench Safety Stand Down encourages employers to take a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity to draw attention to the specific hazards related to working in and around trenches and excavations.

At BWC, we support the stand down and we are strongly committed to preventing trenching accidents, which are often deadly. Earlier this year, we launched the Trench Safety Ohio campaign with accompanying website, TrenchSafetyOhio.com, to increase awareness of the hazards of working in trenches and promoting safe trenching work practices.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we realize it may be a challenge to conduct in-person events, but you can still share resources like our trench safety card (in English and Spanish) with your workers. You also can find additional items and information on our Trench safety resources page.

Additionally, the BWC Learning Center has a recorded webinar – Trenching Overview: A Focus Four Initiative – you and your employees can view for free. Simply log in to the BWC Learning Center, search for Trenching Overview, click the link, and enroll. Employers who have not yet established a BWC Learning Center login can view instructions here.

Whether it’s watching a webinar, sharing videos or information online, or having a smaller event, following proper physical distancing protocols, we hope you’ll take part in the 2020 Trench Safety Stand Down.

Additional resources
OSHA Trenching and Excavation webpage
NIOSH Trenching and Excavation webpage
CPWR Trench Safety webpage

Memorial Day

A Day to Remember and Honor

By Judi Grant, BWC Electronic Design Specialist

Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

One special veteran always comes to mind – my grandfather, Raymond Harley Petty. I honor his memory on this day, and I think about all the veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Although we never met, I carry the impression my grandfather left on my family — respect and love for country, and service to it.

Grandpa enlisted in the Army March 26, 1943, in Columbus. He was 27 and married to my maternal grandmother, Millie.

Pvt. Petty was assigned to the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, which shipped out from Boston on April 6, 1944. His battalion arrived in England on April 17, 1944, then landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, just weeks after D-Day. From there, all my family knew was that my grandfather died from wounds suffered in Germany.

I had searched for years for details on his death. All my inquiries ended the same way, “I’m sorry, all records were burnt in a fire.” In 2019, my father-in-law, Don Grant, a veteran himself, found the answers I was seeking.

We learned my grandfather’s war wounds cost him his left leg, and he died of a blood clot on Nov. 16, 1944 in a hospital in Cambridge, England. Before passing, he received the Purple Heart.

Seven days later, my mother, also named Millie, turned 1. My grandfather had seen pictures of her, but the two never met.

For four years, my grandfather’s remains lay in a beautiful U.S. Military Cemetery in Cambridge, 42 miles northeast of London. In 1948, the Army moved his remains to his final resting place in Beckett Cemetery in Commercial Point, Ohio, about 25 minutes south of downtown Columbus in Pickaway County.

Thanks to my father-in-law’s research, we learned Grandpa was eligible for more than the Purple Heart. In 2018, we received four additional medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation.

I was so proud I immediately framed the medals and other mementoes in a shadow box that hangs in my home office.

Still, something was missing.

I’ve been saddened over the years that I never had a picture of my grandparents and mother together. But that changed last year. On my mother’s birthday, I was looking through old photos and discovered one I had never seen —my grandfather, dressed in full military uniform, standing close to my grandma, who was pregnant with my mother at the time.

I found what I needed.

I am beyond grateful for my grandfather’s sacrifice and that of so many others. On this Memorial Day, as I always do, I’ll ache for the life cut short, the young man who never held his only child, the father my mother never knew. But I will celebrate his life, too.

Thank you, Grandpa.

Military details courtesy of www.tankdestroyer.net.