Home > Fraud Awareness, SID Information > SVIU: Investigating suspected violations of specific safety requirements

SVIU: Investigating suspected violations of specific safety requirements

Most employers are ever seeking to improve workplace safety. Their desire to reduce workplace accidents and illnesses is motivated by so much more than merely reducing the operational costs that result from unsafe workplaces. They desire to protect the health and welfare of each member of the organization. Unfortunately, other employers — perhaps motivated by greed, sloth or both — fail to foster and maintain fundamental workplace safety. In fact, these entities often ignore the best safety practices, even to the point of violating specific safety requirements established by regulation(s).

This is why our BWC SID safety violations investigation unit (SVIU) is so essential. SVIU’s primary function is investigating alleged safety requirement violations that have resulted in a workplace injury, illness or death. Thus, the SID SVIU accomplishes its mission to provide impartial and comprehensive investigations regarding grieved industrial and construction deaths, injuries and/or illnesses for determination by Industrial Commission of Ohio staff hearing officers on alleged violations of Ohio’s specific safety requirements and regulations. To meet the ongoing demand for its services, the SVIU has dedicated staff state-wide, exclusively investigating alleged violations of specific safety regulations (VSSRs).

Compensation via VSSR awards:  If a worker is injured, contracts an illness or is killed on the job because of a violation of a specific safety requirement (VSSR) as outlined in the Ohio Administrative Code, the worker, surviving spouse or dependents may be eligible to receive an additional compensation award, ranging from 15 percent to 50 percent of the injured workers’ maximum allowable weekly compensation rate.

The investigative process:  An SVIU investigation commences when an injured worker or the injured worker’s attorney files an application (IC 8/9) for Violation of Specific Safety Requirement in a Worker’s Compensation Claim within two years of the injury, death or initial diagnosis of illness. Our investigative action steps commonly include:

  • Obtain the injured worker’s affidavit;
  • Contact and interview witnesses;
  • Secure and analyze injury reports, machine maintenance records and other documents;
  • Inspect and photograph the work site, machinery and other evidence;
  • Use high-resolution video to document the sights and sounds of a workplace injury scene; and
  • Re-enact events that led up to a workplace injury or death. Employers, demonstrating good faith, often assist us in these re-enactments.

The SVIU’s investigation concludes when the assigned investigator compiles his or her information in a comprehensive Report of Investigation. The SVIU sends the report to the Industrial Commission (IC) of Ohio and all parties to the claim. The IC then conducts a hearing to determine the eligibility of the worker or surviving dependents to receive a VSSR award. The SVIU Report of Investigation plays a critical role in the IC hearing.

Since 1990, the unit has completed 8,562 investigations.

Outcomes:  The IC hearing culminates in the issuance of an administrative order, granting or denying the additional award. The hearing order may impose upon an employer a penalty, fine and also a requirement to correct specific safety regulation violations.

A Case In Point

On March 28, 2011 an employee died at a demolition site in Montgomery County. The injured worker was a member of a demolition team tasked with razing a vacant industrial facility. SVIU responded to the scene and obtained preliminary information. The SVIU investigation revealed the owner of the company had failed to secure coverage with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Upon the death of the injured worker, the owner of the company fled from the United States. SVIU met with the injured worker’s widow and other family members. A BWC claim was filed on behalf of the decedent. SVIU worked with BWC to establish an employer policy and the claim was subsequently allowed and charged to the employer’s policy.

Be on the Lookout

Red flags that may indicate the employer is operating an unsafe workplace in violation of specific safety regulations:

  • Employer has placed tarps or large equipment to act as “shields” around perimeters of construction trenching sites to block the view of the public and/or safety inspectors;
  • Employer requires workers to provide their own required personal protective equipment;
  • No trained or qualified “competent person” exclusively oversees the job site;
  • Employer fails to require and/or furnish training or certification to workers prior to permitting them to operate industrial vehicles;
  • Equipment is devoid of any sign or label warning workers of dangerous areas or zones;
  • Emergency quick drench stations are non-operational or in need of maintenance;
  • Employer permits persons within construction sites who are not wearing hardhats and/or other required personal protective equipment;
  • Employer permits workers to work at elevated heights or rooftops without fall arrest equipment;
  • Employer makes no modification or change in response to reported “close calls” / near injuries; and
  • Current BWC certificate of coverage is not posted and/or has been altered.

Look for our next fraud awareness article that will discuss our BWC Security operation. Meanwhile, be sure to read more about SVIU investigations in our SVIU FY 2011 Annual Report.

If you suspect anyone is committing workers’ compensation fraud, let us know. You may report it online at http://bit.ly/reportfraud or you may speak with a fraud hotline agent by calling 1-800-OHIOBWC.

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