Have you inspected your forklift lately?

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Every day at many work locations, powered industrial trucks (aka forklifts) are sadly being neglected and unloved. Sounds extreme, but it’s true.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard states, “Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service … Such examination shall be made at least daily.” OSHA continues, “where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift.”

So, let’s break down when and what to inspect, and who should do it.

First and foremost – inspections MUST be done.

Inspections need to be done when you put a powered industrial truck (let’s call them forklifts from here on out) in service.

This means inspecting new forklifts and those that have been sitting around unused more than one day. Beyond that, if you use a forklift more than one shift in any given day – you need to inspect it at least after each shift.

OK, so now that’s a little clearer and we know when to inspect – let’s talk about WHO must inspect. Often the forklift operators are the inspectors – and that’s perfectly acceptable. It makes sense for the person who is most impacted to do the inspection. However, sometimes a supervisor or a maintenance employee does the inspection., That’s fine, too. Just make sure the inspector is trained, the inspection’s getting done and it’s getting done right.

Now, let’s cover WHAT we should inspect for. First things first – you need to make sure you are inspecting anything the manufacturer recommends. Yup, you’ve got it – that means you need the manual for the equipment. I know, I know, you have a really old forklift, or maybe you bought it used from an auction … who has the manual? Well, you should.I If you don’t have it, you need to find it – look online, contact the manufacturer or a dealer … but find it. Once you have it, I suggest making a copy and squirrelling away the original so you don’t have to go through this again.

After you use the manufacturer recommendations, you need to consider things that OSHA details out for training. You’ve got it right – OSHA does not give a list of what should be inspected, however it does list mechanical things you need to train your folks on … so it makes sense to inspect for those things. These include:

  • Safety guards.
  • Batteries or fuel systems.
  • Steering systems and wheels.
  • Load backrest extensions.
  • Brakes, horn and lights (if present).

Additionally, you should look at housekeeping – seriously housekeeping on a forklift! Your truck should be kept “clean, free of lint, excess oil and grease.” Now, I’m not expecting the equipment to be clean enough to eat off, but it should not look like a pig sty. You should also include any other safety and operational items that you and your company deem inspection-worthy.

I recommend you create your own checklist to include all these things. You can find dozens of samples online, but don’t just use one without carefully looking at it.  You can update and customize this checklist as needed, it’s yours … so make it look like it!

The OSHA standard also says you need to train your employees on “any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.” Bottom line, if your forklift operators are doing the inspections, they need to know how to do them. A great way to train them is to go out and do the inspection as an exercise during the operator training on a real-life forklift. You can also use this YouTube video that we created (I helped) to aid in the training of forklift inspection.

The last item to keep in mind about forklift inspections is: if you find something unsafe, you DO something about it. OSHA 1910.178(p)(1) says: “If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.” Don’t ignore unsafe conditions you discover on a forklift. I know, you need to get the job done, but if you have an incident because your forklift is unsafe, it will take a lot longer to do the job and you may hurt someone. That’s not worth it!

The last thought I will leave you with is, consider the dreaded concern of “pencil whipping.” I know you would never do it – but sometimes the importance of an inspection is forgotten and in our rush – we grab the inspection sheet and check off it’s “all good” without even looking at the equipment. If you are the inspector and you are reading this: DON’T DO THAT – that’s silly. If you administer the inspection program, don’t allow others to take shortcuts either.

You can do things to prevent accidents – do spot checks, ask questions and double check. Make forklift inspections a priority!

Cleveland-area valet attendant convicted of workers’ comp fraud

BWC also reports four fraud convictions in August

A Cleveland-area man collecting disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday after investigators found him working as a valet attendant at Southwest General Hospital in Middleburg Heights.

Anthony Caputo, 67, paid BWC $4,021 in restitution prior to his plea in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge fined him $500 in lieu of a 10-day jail sentence for the first-degree misdemeanor.

“Acting on a tip in 2017, our investigators found Mr. Caputo had worked for no less than four employers while receiving BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “In fact, we found he went back to work just a few weeks after his on-the-job injury at a restaurant in August 2016.”

In another fraud case, a Springfield woman pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 13 after investigators found her working as a consultant to a South Charleston employer while collecting BWC benefits.

Linda Cline paid BWC $6,759 in restitution prior to pleading guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County common pleas court. A judge sentenced her to six months of probation.

In other news, BWC secured fraud convictions against three Ohioans and one Texan in August, bringing the calendar year’s total to 54 as of Aug. 31. Those convicted include:

Walter Patterson of Olmsted Twp. – Patterson pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in Franklin County. A judge ordered Patterson to reimburse BWC $45,906 and serve five years of community control.

Jason Smith of Pataskala – Smith pleaded guilty Aug. 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was sentenced to 12 months incarceration, suspended for three years of community control. He was ordered to pay restitution of $41,413 to his former employer, TS Tech Corporation.

Grant Myers of Huron – Myers pleaded guilty Aug. 8 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 30 days incarceration, suspended. He paid BWC $11,566 in restitution.

 Stacy Driskell of Cedar Park, Texas – Driskell pleaded guilty Aug. 3 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found her working for a mortgage lending law firm in Texas while collecting BWC benefits. A judge fined Driskell $300 plus court costs. Prior to the plea, Driskell paid full restitution of $3,056 to BWC.

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

2,000 Fraud Hotline calls in 10 months!

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

We have received 2,000 calls since we launched our new Fraud Hotline system ten months ago during International Fraud Awareness Week 2017. The 200 calls a month, means we have received nearly 10 each work day, or more than one every working hour!

In our November 14, 2017 blog, we noted that calling the BWC Fraud Hotline is the most interactive and direct way for you to report an allegation of fraud. Our hotline puts you in direct contact with an agent in our Special Investigations Department, one ready and willing to listen to your concerns.

Our hotline agents have years of investigative knowledge, skills and experience securing the essential information from sources. Whether the fraud hotline agent is Connor, Jake, Jeff, Karen, Karie or Loryn, or any of our 25 fraud analysts assigned to our special investigations unit statewide, callers know within seconds that they have reached a committed, respectful professional.

These same agents also receive and process fraud referral forms submitted by sources who report their suspicions via a Report Fraud link on bwc.ohio.gov. Just last month, for example, the convictions of Jason C. Smith and Walter M. Patterson were the result of fraud referral forms submitted to our hotline.

If you’re concerned about the alleged fraudster discovering your identity, rest assured. Your identity may remain either anonymous or confidential, depending on your preference. In addition, you don’t need to prove any facts or even have 100 percent confidence in your suspicion. You need only to suspect that fraud may have occurred or continues to occur. We’ll take care of the rest.

We look forward to hearing from you, so give us a call at 1-800-644-6292 if you suspect fraud. We will conduct the investigation and determine the facts. Together, we are successfully combatting workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio – one call and referral form at a time.

Thank you for your support!

Disasters happen. Are you ready?

By Jodi Lombardo, BWC Employee Safety & Health Administration Manager

Disasters happen. Prepare now. Learn how.

Those three sentences form the theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors National Preparedness Month each September. Its goal is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities.

This month is a great time to learn how to use a fire extinguisher (every home should have one!) and how to keep safe in severe weather.

And it’s always a great time to take a course in lifesaving CPR/AED or trauma first aid. We at BWC offer this training to our own employees.

With the right planning and skills, you’re one of the people your co-workers and loved ones will turn to when disaster strikes. You’ll be instrumental in saving lives in an emergency before first responders can arrive.

This year’s weekly themes are below. Please take some time to review the information contained in each link.

Visit ready.gov or more information on National Preparedness Month.

Cleveland-area bartender served felony conviction for workers’ comp fraud

Euclid woman owes BWC more than $25K in restitution

A Cleveland-area bartender must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $25,000 after pleading guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC learned in late 2016 that Euclid resident Clarice L. Ward was not attending her physical therapy appointments for her workplace injury and that the BWC-contracted company managing her care couldn’t reach her. As BWC investigated her case, the agency received an anonymous tip that Ward was working at Final Score Bar in Willowick, Ohio, while collecting BWC disability benefits.

“Ms. Ward would not cooperate with our investigators, so we interviewed her former employer and obtained evidence proving her fraudulent activity,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department.

Ward, 40, pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, where the judge sentenced her to six months in prison, suspended for five years of community control, and ordered her to pay BWC $26,578 in restitution.

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

Workers’ comp fraud scheme burns cook for $46K

Northeast Ohio man guilty of 5th degree felony

A northeast Ohio man who worked as a cook for nearly three years while collecting disability benefits from the state owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $46,000 following his fraud conviction last week.

Walter M. Patterson, 58, of Olmsted Twp., pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Patterson to reimburse BWC $45,906 and serve five years of community control.

“It’s a mistaken perception among some people that workers’ compensation fraud is not that big a deal, that BWC ‘can afford it,’” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “As this case demonstrates, we take fraud very seriously and intend to recoup every ill-gotten dollar fraudsters take from this agency so those funds can serve injured workers who truly need them.”

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Patterson working as a cook at the Valley Tavern in Valley View, Ohio, and learned that he had previously worked as a cook at the County Line Bar in Brecksville.

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

Restaurant safety: It’s not just about food safety

By Ben Hissam, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant

Having worked in restaurants as a chef or chef manager for more than 10 years, I have seen first-hand the hazards of the industry.

I remember the long hours, usually working six nights a week. It is a demanding job that you have to really love, getting satisfaction from making people happy through your work.

When I came to BWC, I decided to help develop the restaurant safety class because of my industry experience. My days in the kitchen gave me insights into restaurant operations in the front and back of the house.

I remember starting in the restaurant industry, when everything was made from scratch. This often included hand cutting vegetables and salads, meats, potatoes and more. Prep work was, and still is, a large part of the job. Ergonomic-related injuries – including repetitive hand motions, prolonged standing, lifting produce cases, etc. – are some of the most common injuries in the business.

Other common hazards include cuts, burns, and slips, trips and falls. Unlike the imminent danger hazards in construction and manufacturing, hazards in restaurants tend toward first-aid types of injuries. Rarer are reportable injuries such as amputations or fatalities from entanglement in a large industrial mixer or buffalo chopper, which are more likely in food processing than in a restaurant.

The restaurant industry is partially exempt from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping requirements. People attending the restaurant safety courses I teach say they are often more concerned with health department inspections.

Restaurant staff usually attend food safety classes, like servsafe, that focus on the safety of food prep and storage, areas the health department regulates. However, it’s also important they not overlook the standards that OSHA regulates in the restaurant industry, including:

  • Hazard communication – exposure to corrosive sanitation and cleaning chemicals.
  • Walking working surfaces – slippery or cluttered floors.
  • Machine guarding – powered equipment, slicers, mixers, etc.
  • Lock out – cord and plug control single point lock out.
  • Personal protective equipment – slip-resistant shoes, cut-resistant gloves, thermal protection etc.
  • Emergency action plans – one-way exit discharge blocked by trash staging in back of house.
  • Electrical – ground-fault circuit interrupter protection where conductive services are located.

Other hazards restaurants should address include awkward lifting and bending, and workplace violence, such as robbery or fights among employees.

We offer classroom and online courses to help restaurants address hazards and develop comprehensive safety plans to protect their workers. You can learn more or register online. I hope to see you in class!