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Firefighters in BC get expanded workplace injury coverage

All areas of employment carry an element of risk to workers' health. Those risks vary by profession, and some types of workplace injury may be specific to a particular job. Firefighters are exposed to numerous hazards while on the job, although some are less obvious than others. A recent decision by the government of British Columbia has expanded the list of ailments eligible for compensation.

Firefighters routinely face the risk of burns, injuries from a fall, collapsing structures and other physical hazards. They are also at an increased risk for various illnesses, including many forms of cancer. In 2005, the province and WorkSafe BC issued a list of 10 forms of cancer commonly seen in firefighters that were recognized as illnesses acquired on the job, meaning firefighters are presumptively believed to have contracted those illnesses as a result of their profession, entitling them to WorkSafe benefits. The list included brain, testicular and lung cancer, to name a few.

In early March 2017, three more forms of cancer were added to the list; prostate cancer, breast cancer and multiple myeloma. These additions to the list means that any firefighter who is diagnosed with one of these cancers will be presumed to have contracted it as a result of his or her job, and will therefore be entitled to benefit coverage from WorkSafe. Union representatives for local firefighters are continuing to lobby for the inclusion of PTSD, depressive conditions and anxiety. 

Not every workplace injury makes itself known on the exterior of the body. Cancer can be a devastating illness, and the recognition of it as a employment hazard is great news for firefighters. No matter the injury or illness, any person, regardless of profession, who believes they have suffered as a result of his or her job might consider going over their situation with a lawyer who understands workplace injuries and employment law in British Columbia. A lawyer may have the answers that person is looking for.

Source: kamloopsthisweek.com, "More coverage for ill firefighters", Cam Fortems, March 9, 2017

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