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Workplace injury: Cancer leading cause of firefighters' deaths

Firefighters in British Columbia and other provinces and territories face multiple safety hazards. Instances of workplace injury are prevalent because they work in dangerous situations in which they are often exposed to extreme conditions that include high temperatures. Although previous research identified cardiovascular diseases as the primary cause of the death of firefighters, new studies contradict that.

Based on data about injuries and deaths from 2006 through 2015 as recorded by WorkSafeBC and the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, new research indicates cancer to cause most firefighter fatalities. This was reported by the University of the Fraser Valley and the B.C. Injury and Prevention Unit. They say that 90 per cent of injuries that caused lost work hours followed traumatic injuries but 86 per cent of firefighter deaths was caused by cancer, with mental health being next on the list.

On the British Columbia government's list of occupational diseases, leukemia, testicular, bladder and brain cancer appear, along with the most recently added multiple myeloma, prostate and breast cancer. Not only are firefighters frequently exposed to infectious and contagious diseases but also toxic products and fumes, some of which contain carcinogens. Safety authorities recommend the promotion of on-site screening to facilitate early detection of cancer.

British Columbia firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer might find comfort in learning that they need not prove their disease to be a workplace injury to be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Navigating a benefits claim might seem daunting under the circumstances. Fortunately, a lawyer who is experienced in all aspects of employment law can navigate the legal and administrative proceedings and work to secure maximum benefits.

Source: vancouversun.com, "Trauma, cancer top causes of injury and death with firefighters: study", Tiffany Crawford, March 29, 2018

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