Fire fighters in British Columbia who contract thyroid or pancreatic because of workplace exposures now have better access to compensation and support services from the province’s Workers Compensation system.
A regulatory amendment adding the new cancers was signed Nov. 8 and applies to fire fighters with at least 10 years of service. The move brings the number of cancers deemed occupational for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits in B.C. to 18 and follows ongoing advocacy by the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association.
IAFF Senior Executive for Western Operations and BCPFFA President Gord Ditchburn said he was grateful to BC’s NDP Government for listening to fire fighters.
“Recognizing the health challenges that fire fighters face is extremely important to our membership as they put their lives on the line every day in communities across this province,” Ditchburn said.
IAFF General President Edward Kelly congratulated the BCPFFA for the latest expansion of its members’ presumptive coverage. “Cancer is an epidemic in the fire service,” he said. “Presumptive coverage goes a long way in ensuring fire fighters who experience occupational cancers get the compensation and support they deserve, and I’m glad our members in B.C. now have these additional protections.”
BC Labour Minister Harry Bains acknowledged that fire fighters are still exposed to dangerous substances from burning materials despite the use of protective safety equipment. “Over time, exposure can lead to serious, sometimes deadly, illnesses where prompt treatment is critical. I am proud to support these brave workers who selflessly put their health and lives on the line to keep British Columbians safe.”
B.C. joins Yukon Territory, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador which also added thyroid and pancreatic coverage earlier this year. The province, which is home to 4,400 IAFF members in 52 locals, first enacted presumptive legislation for fire fighters in 2003. BC also includes mental health disorders and heart injury in its presumptive coverage for fire fighters.