Ohio BWC secures 7 convictions in June

More than a quarter million dollars owed in restitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Meronk, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge orders restitution, 5 years probation

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

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

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

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

Dog groomer, two businesses plead to workers comp fraud-related charges

A former central Ohio dog groomer pleaded guilty to a theft charge June 21 after investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) found her living and working in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while receiving BWC benefits.

Karrie Hoskisson, 44, formerly of Canal Winchester, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor theft count and was sentenced to 36 days in jail. A Franklin County judge gave her credit for time served because she was jailed in Colorado after her arrest in May and again in Columbus following her extradition.

“Ms. Hoskisson failed to follow through with us following her not guilty plea to theft and workers’ compensation fraud charges in 2016, so we had her arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Office and extradited to Ohio,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department.

Wernecke said marshals arrested Hoskisson on May 16 when she appeared for a medical exam related to her 2004 work injury. He said Hoskisson collected $15,000 in BWC benefits during the time she was also working as a night watchman in Colorado.

Click here for a photo of Hoskisson.

Two business owners convicted

In other news, the owner of a Dayton-area business that owes BWC more than $190,000 must prove to a judge that he’s taken steps to bring his policy back into compliance when he’s sentenced on a related criminal charge Aug. 13.

Randall Mount, the owner of Ram Restoration in Centerville, pleaded no contest Monday in Kettering Municipal Court to a second-degree misdemeanor count that he failed to comply with Ohio law requiring him to carry workers’ compensation coverage for his business. Mount’s business remediates water, fire and mold damage and performs other construction work, according to its website.

Back premiums and claims costs have accrued since Mount’s policy lapsed in January 2016. BWC worked with Mount for five months to bring his policy into compliance, but Mount ultimately failed to do so.

In another employer case, the owner of a Columbus automotive repair shop pleaded guilty June 5 to two second-degree misdemeanor counts of Failure to Comply after letting his policy lapse in July 2015.

Steve Frair told BWC he closed his Essex Avenue business Nov. 1, 2017. A judge in the Franklin County Municipal Court fined Frair $165. Frair owes BWC $626 in back premiums and penalties.

Distracted driving: Do you feel lucky?

By Joe Koehl, BWC Loss Prevention Supervisor

To quote Dirty Harry in the 1971 classic film: “You gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’  Well do you punk?” Distracted driving may not seem as perilous as staring down a scowling Dirty Harry, but really, it is. Distracted driving will take more lives in real life than all the hard-boiled detectives and gumshoes in Hollywood combined.

So, the next time you go to reach for your cell phone, makeup, newspaper or Big Mac, you gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Because you are literally putting your life and the life of others at risk, and for what?

In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver and 3,477 died. That’s approximately nine fatalities and more than 1,000 injured every day in the United States.

What do you think those drivers thought before the crash? Most likely, they figured they were a good driver and could multi-task. After all, they do it all the time, it’s the other guy who is the problem. Well, hundreds of thousands of drivers every year are proven wrong. You can avoid being one of those statistics.

These are three types of distractions that you need to avoid while driving.

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

And some tasks such as texting, eating, reading or applying makeup could be a trifecta of distractions. So, the next time you’re tempted to take your eyes, hands or mind off the wheel, you gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?  Well, do you…” Because you are literally putting your life and the life of others at risk.  So, do you feel lucky?

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Distracted Driving webpage.

Aggressive driving – How much time do you really save?

By Joe Koehl, BWC Loss Prevention Supervisor

Does it irritate you when you’re trying to be an upstanding, law-abiding, defensive driver, keeping a safe three-second following distance from the car in front of you, and somebody changes lanes and cuts you off? And then another car and another car and another car? It can irk me to no end!

So, really, how much time do we save by being an aggressive driver? How much time do we save by staying in the fast lane on the bumper of the car in front of us and letting nobody, I mean nobody, not even our own grandmother cut in front of us. Let’s do the math.

If your following distance is one second versus three seconds and you follow that car for 10 miles, you’ll save about two seconds. And if you prevented one car from cutting in front of you, you saved about five whole seconds. Heck, if you are really aggressive and prevented 10 cars from cutting in front of you, you saved about 30 whole seconds off a 10- to 20-minute trip.

On the other hand, you most likely increased your stress, increased your risk of a ticket (yes, it is illegal to follow too closely/tailgate) and increased your chance of being in an accident, all for 30 seconds. Although probably less than 30 seconds, because as soon as a car cuts in front of you, another cuts out into a “faster” lane.

If you were unlucky enough to be “that” car in an accident or pulled over, you just increased not only your stress but the stress level of about a thousand other commuters who are now affected by your decision. And your own grandmother, who you would not let in front of you, is ready to box your ears! That is a lot of bad karma – bad juju – coming back on you.

So, next time you start getting irritated, just smile, turn on some music, keep that safe following distance and get safely to your destination a few seconds later. And if someone is tailgating you, increase your following distance a little bit more (not to irritate) but to make sure you both will be able to stop in an emergency.

Three Ohio businesses plead in work comp fraud cases

Two owners owe a combined $78K in back premiums

Two business owners from Bellefontaine, Ohio, that owe approximately $78,000 in back premiums to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation can avoid fines and jail time if they bring their BWC policies back into compliance later this year, a municipal judge ruled June 12.

“Letting your workers’ compensation coverage lapse is a serious matter that puts employees and businesses at risk for potentially staggering medical costs and related expenses,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We tried to work with these owners, but they ultimately didn’t do what they needed to do to avoid criminal charges.”

Jason Brown, the owner of the trucking company Bolts Carriers LLC in Bellefontaine, pleaded no contest to two second-degree misdemeanor counts of Failure to Comply after BWC found he defaulted on a reinstatement payment plan in September 2015. Prior to sentencing, Brown paid approximately $1,900 toward his balance of more than $55,000. He has until Dec. 12 to bring his policy into compliance or he could face 20 days jail and a $450 fine on each of the two charges.

In a separate case, the owner of a boat canvas shop in Bellefontaine whose policy lapsed 18 years ago has until Sept. 1 to bring the company’s policy into compliance. One week prior to sentencing, Desee McIntosh of Custom Canvas remitted a $1,000 payment toward his balance of more than $23,000. He pleaded no contest to three second-degree misdemeanor counts of Failure to Comply. He faces 30 days in jail and $450 in fines for each count.

In other news, the owner of The Gyro Spot Bar & Grill in Parma, Ohio, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of Attempted Workers’ Compensation Fraud, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found his business lacked workers’ comp coverage.

As BWC agents worked with owner John Triskett to bring his business into compliance, they found he intentionally under-reported his payroll and used other inaccurate information to keep his policy payments significantly less than the amount he actually owed.

A judge sentenced Triskett to 30 days in jail (suspended), six months of probation and ordered Triskett to pay a $100 fine and $1,140 in restitution to BWC.

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