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.

 

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!

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.

May 2020: Celebrate National Nurses Month and Year of the Nurse

By Mary Charney, BSN, RN, BBA, Director of Nursing

Nurses are heroes. Nurses make a difference.

Not just in these challenging times during our battle with the coronavirus (COVID-19), but in our everyday lives and those of Ohio’s injured workers. The value that nurses contribute to health care and their role in society is why our nation is celebrating National Nurses Month in May during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

This well-deserved recognition honors the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12. She founded our modern nursing profession.

BWC’s nurses lead at work, home

The value nurses bring to our customers goes way beyond the bedside. While most of BWC’s 61 nurses do not see patients face-to-face every day, they greatly impact Ohio’s injured workers, employers, and their coworkers’ lives. They work in a variety of areas, from medical policy, legal, and employee health to rehabilitation, claims management, compliance, and clinical advisement.

Many of our nurses serve as a medical resource to answer questions from Ohio’s injured workers, providers, managed care organizations, and their coworkers. Others are serving their local communities by working in a hospital emergency department or by making personal protective equipment. Many are assisting their families, friends, and communities with health issues and serving as their advocates.

We, along with the rest of the nation, devote this month and this year to highlighting the diverse ways registered nurses work to improve health care. In honor of National Nurses Month and the Year of the Nurse, thank our nursing professionals for what he or she does every day at work and within our communities. Nurses make a difference by excelling, leading, and innovating for us throughout our lives.


Largest, most trusted health-care profession

In an 18-year running streak, Americans rated nurses as the No. 1 most ethical and honest profession, according to the most recent Gallup poll. This is another reason to celebrate nurses during the Year of the Nurse and it also shines a light on the nursing profession.

The American Nursing Association states that now more than ever, we need to support and recognize nurses for their contributions in crises and for their ongoing roles in meeting the needs of patients and their communities. In these challenging times, we encourage you to promote nurses’ health and well-being and to honor them in every way you can.

Thank you, nurses!

Every nurse has a heart-felt story to tell of how he or she has helped someone during their varied careers. Every day, BWC’s nurses strive to serve as the best resource and provide exemplary service for Ohio’s injured workers and our employees.

BWC’s nurses use their knowledge, talents, dedication to service, and compassion to assist others. I have never reached out to a nurse asking for help with a project or with a workers’ comp claim issue and not received this quick response – “Of course, I will help.”

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families, and ourselves. They may not remember your name, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Take time to thank a nurse today to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts to go above and beyond for all of us. We honor our nurses during National Nurses Month for their hard work and service all year long!

They are truly heroes without capes.

The American Nurses Association promotes May as Nurses Month to support and recognize nurses for their contributions in crises and for their ongoing roles in meeting the needs of patients and their communities. 

IFAW: That’s a wrap

It’s time to wrap another impressive International Fraud Awareness Week.

We specialize in workers’ comp fraud but enjoy hearing about what our counterparts are doing in their fight to stop all kinds of fraud. We also appreciate the opportunity to share our story with you.

We’ve shared a lot about ourselves, including what we do, why we do it, a little about how we do it, how Ohioans can help and much more.

Thanks for connecting with us this week. While we hope you never come across workers’ comp fraud, if you do, we want you to know how recognize it and where to find us.

If you do still have questions, don’t worry, we’re here all year long.

Create your safety game plan at OSC18!

osctweets2Does your organization have a game plan for safety in your workplace? The Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC18) can help you develop a winning formula for keeping your workers safe and healthy on the job.

Whether you’ve been before or if this is your first visit, safety congress gives you the opportunity to:

  • Learn new workplace safety methods;
  • See innovative products;
  • Gather information;
  • Ask questions.

OSC18 – the largest regional safety and health conference in the U.S. – is happening March 7-9 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Best of all, attendance is FREE for Ohio employers, their employees and all individuals with an interest in occupational safety and health.

With more than 200 educational sessions, 250 exhibitors, opportunities for free continuing education and BWC program credits, you won’t want to sit on the sideline!

Let OSC18 help your organization strengthen its teamwork and commitment to safety in the workplace. Because safety is truly a team effort.

Register for OSC18 today!

 

 

Five Northeast Ohioans convicted of work comp fraud

Four claimants and one employer from northeast Ohio were sentenced in November for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 121.

“BWC is in the business of caring for injured workers and promoting safe workplaces, not doling out thousands of dollars to cheaters,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’ll return these funds to where they belong and turn our attention to others working the system to avoid paying their share or to collect payments they don’t deserve.”

Among those convicted last month:

Geoffrey Cigany, of Chardon, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 8 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. An anonymous allegation led to an investigation that found Cigany worked as a handyman/carpenter for WC Gotts Holdings, Inc. while receiving benefits between March 2014 and September 2014. Cigany paid restitution in full in the amount of $8,499. A Franklin County judge ordered Cigany to pay a fine and waived court costs.

Harvey Short, dba ASAP Transport, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, was convicted Nov. 16 of a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply for falsifying his workers’ compensation certificate of coverage. The certificate raised suspicion after Short provided it to a local company as proof of coverage because it showed a different policy number than the one he provided the prior year. Short admitted to falsifying the certificate and was ordered by a Garfield Heights Municipal Court judge to pay restitution of $150 and court fees.

Laitanya Dinkins, of Euclid, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. A database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tipped investigators off that Dinkins returned to work as a home health aide while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Dinkins to 90 days in jail (suspended) and three years of community control. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,716.

Christopher Gattarello, of Lyndhurst, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits from BWC. The investigation began after a claims representative noted construction noise in the background during every phone conversation with Gattarello about his injury claim. Investigators found Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, returned to work as a driver/heavy equipment operator. Gattarello was sentenced in a Franklin County courtroom to 186 days in jail with credit for time served. He was already serving 57-months in prison on federal charges of money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act. Read more about his case and view surveillance video here.

Timothy S. Lumsden, of Avon Lake, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. Acting on a tip in 2015, BWC investigators determined Lumsden had returned to work as an independent carpenter at the Federal Knitting Mills Building in Cleveland while collecting temporary total disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lumsden to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

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

Take a STAND-Down to prevent falls in Ohio’s workplaces

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Construction, by its nature, is a dangerous industry. With much of the work happening from elevation, fall hazards are a major concern and fall protection is a must to prevent injuries and deaths.

construction73

In 2015, falls accounted for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities in the United States.* The previous year in Ohio, there were 993 falls from elevation, with 324 of these falls happening in construction. Falls don’t need to be from great heights to have serious consequences; even short falls from elevation can cause serious injuries. However, proper training and awareness can help prevent injuries and fatal accidents.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looks to raise fall hazard awareness across the country with its National Fall Prevention Stand-Down. This year’s stand-down is happening May 8-12.

At this point, you might be wondering, “What exactly is a stand-down?” A safety stand-down is a voluntary event for employers to speak directly to their workers about workplace safety. Companies can conduct a stand-down event in several ways, including:

  • Short toolbox talks;
  • Distributing handouts;
  • Screening safety videos;
  • Training and demonstrations;
  • Meetings and presentations;
  • Equipment inspections/audits.

We strongly urge Ohio employers – especially those in the construction industry – to have a stand-down to discuss fall hazards and fall protection sometime between May 8 and May 12.

We can help you plan your stand-down activity. Call 1-800-644-6292 for assistance. The BWC Library also offers an extensive collection of audiovisual materials related to fall hazards and fall prevention.

Let’s take a STAND-Down to prevent falls!

For more information

 *Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Burglar adds workers’ comp fraud to rap sheet

A Cincinnati man serving time in an Indiana prison for burglary got a short break from prison March 9, but only to plead guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in an Ohio courtroom.

John Dillard Lewis, 47, pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge sentenced him to nine months incarceration, to be served concurrent with his Indiana case. Lewis’s 2015 indictment followed an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that found Lewis had been working for a Wendy’s restaurant while collecting $32,532 in BWC benefits from June 17, 2013 to Aug. 12, 2014.

Lewis was injured on the job in 2011 while working in a factory. BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned he was working while receiving BWC benefits from a database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He was indicted in Ohio in 2015 but failed to show for court. Investigators later learned he was in the Indiana prison.

Lewis is serving a nearly six-year sentence in the Branchville Correctional Prison in Indiana for a fourth-degree burglary conviction in Ohio County, Indiana. He was sentenced there last year.

In other recent BWC fraud cases:

  • Patrick Fachman of Columbus pleaded guilty Tuesday to a first-degree count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false workers’ comp claims against an employer he no longer worked for. A judge sentenced Fachman to one day of jail time, credited him with one day served, and waived fines and court costs.
  • The owner of a Columbus asphalt company pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Feb. 27 after investigators found he had falsified a BWC certificate of coverage to secure a job contract. A judge fined Anthony Evans of A1 Asphalt & Co. $100 and ordered him to pay $134 in court fees.
  • Frank Massingill of Burton, Ohio, was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor charge of failure to comply with the law on Jan. 23 for not carrying proper BWC coverage for his business. BWC’s employer fraud team agents tried to work with Massingill to bring him into compliance, but he wouldn’t cooperate. A judge sentenced Massingill to one year of probation and ordered him to pay fees owed to BWC. Massingill also must comply with workers’ compensation rules and regulations, obey all laws and not permanently leave the state without the court’s permission.

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

What a difference a Board makes

“Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” — Duke Ellington

Whether you state it eloquently or simply, BWC was not in a good place in 2007. The reputation and hard work built by thousands of honest, hard-working employees over numerous years was undone overnight by a handful of bad actors. The business community and injured workers alike had ample opportunity to question the financial health and direction of BWC.

Today BWC is a much different place. Rates have been lowered repeatedly. The private sector base rates in fact are more than 20% lower than even five years ago. The public sector base rates are the lowest in more than 30 years. Businesses have benefited from $2 billion in rebates and another $1.2 billion in credits to help move to a modernized billing system. Injured workers are benefiting from a pharmacy management system that is better coordinating care and reducing the chance of addiction or overdose of narcotics. They are benefitting from pilot programs that are better coordinating care, including by addressing aggravating conditions.

All Ohio workers are benefitting from safer workplaces. BWC has tripled its safety grant program to $15 million annually, and is investing millions to better train firefighters and fund university research on a myriad of safety topics.

And it is doing these things with a great majority of the same people who were here in 2007.

So what’s the difference? One big part of this turnaround is the creation of—and the direction provided by—the BWC Board of Directors.

Since first meeting in August 2007, the Board has, first and foremost, established itself as a strong, professional board, with the personnel and governance measures necessary to provide direction rooted in real-world expertise. To its original Audit, Investment, and Actuarial committees—each requiring a board member with expertise in that area—the Board quickly added a Governance Committee in addition to a  Medical Services and Safety Committee. Each month, the Board of Directors meets to conduct its business. Particularly telling of the professionalism of its members though, attendance at ALL the committee meetings, held the day before the Board meeting, is almost always close to 100 percent. Despite there being no requirement to attend any more than your assigned committee, the board members typically choose to do so. This helps ensure that the work of those committees benefits from the input of the various directors, who each represent a particular interest or area of expertise, ranging from small business to injured workers to investments.

Having just marked its 100th meeting, we sat down with two directors who have been there from the start. David Caldwell, currently legislative coordinator and assistant director of United Steelworkers State of Ohio District 1, and a career member of the United Steelworkers of America, represents the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO. Kenneth Haffey, chair of the Audit committee, is a partner in the CPA firm of Skoda, Minotti and Co. in Mayfield Village.

 

BWCBlog: What were your initial impressions walking into the first board meeting?

KH: What am I doing here?  How is this group ever going to get along?

DC: Apprehension was quickly replaced with a realization of the enormity of the tasks that lay ahead.  The size of the spectator crowd, at that time, overflowed into additional meeting rooms on the second floor.

 

BWCBlog: What did you see as your biggest challenge in the early days of the board?

DC: Getting back, or maybe establishing for the first time, the trust of our stakeholders and the public at large.

KH: Learning about the operations of BWC. I was comfortable with my role as the Audit committee chair, I just didn’t realize what else I’d be involved in.

 

BWCBlog: How would you describe your stakeholders’ view of the board back then?

KH: Skeptical. The BWC was just coming out of a lot “bad stuff.”

DC: Distrust on a massive scale, far worse than I was ever aware of at that time.

 

BWCBlog: How do you think this board compares to other boards?

DC: It is my belief that each member of the Ohio BWC Board, from the beginning, has been the “gold standard” for any board of directors public or private.

KH: Comparable to corporate boards I work with and have been on over the years, except that our members attend all the committee meetings, which doesn’t happen in the private sector.

 

BWCBlog: How would you describe your stakeholders view of BWC now?

KH: I think they see us as a viable governing body that has made and continues to make a difference to injured workers, business owners and BWC employees.

DC: Much improved. I suspect there is always some skepticism, but from what I hear the opinion of BWC is better than the “government” as a whole.

 

BWCBlog: What are you personally most proud of over the past 8 years?

DC: I’m most proud of feeling I was, in at least some small way a part of re-establishing public confidence on Ohio BWC.

KH: Being recognized as a board who put politics and personal agendas aside and made the right decisions for the right reasons all along.

 

BWCBlog: If you had one piece of advice for other workers’ compensation boards, what would it be?

KH: Do not lose sight that you have a “duty-of-care” for the injured workers and business owners alike.

DC: Stay the course, with a constant eye toward improving. Our challenges are always changing.