The reproductive systems of all firefighters will soon be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Firefighters are covered by benefits for 13 known high-risk cancers – the province plans to add ovarian, cervical and penile cancers. Members also won’t have to work as long before being eligible for coverage for testicular, colorectal and esophageal cancers.
Anthony Moore, president of the First Nations Emergency Services Society sees significant value in the additions.
“These changes will benefit all fire departments and personnel, particularly volunteer fire departments and those with minimal resources, including the many strong female First Nations firefighters who serve their communities,” he said.
A 2018 study at the University of Fraser Valley found cancer represented more than 86 per cent of all fatality claims in B.C., with an annual rate of 50 fatalities per 100,000 firefighters.
Firefighters face hazards at work and they’ve been asking for this protection, Minister of Labour Harry Bains said in a news release.
“When it comes to the workers’ compensation system, they shouldn’t have to prove that certain long-term illnesses are work-related in order to access supports,” he said.
The change to the Firefighters’ Occupational Disease Regulation in the Workers Compensation Act will mean easier access to benefits and support services while recognizing the higher risk of developing work-related cancers.
If a firefighter develops a listed cancer after a certain period of employment, it is presumed the cancer is a result of the job and the individual is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits without having to prove the cancer is work-related. While all firefighters can be exposed to the same hazards, the amendments add gender-specific cancers to the list of those covered.
“We are extremely thankful for the expansion of the presumptive list of occupational diseases recognized in the legislation, along with the reduction in cumulative latency periods for other existing cancers. Our female firefighters who are on the front lines must be recognized, and we stand with them in our advocacy for health, safety and support for all members,” said Gord Ditchburn, president of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association.
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