Gov’t to look at cancer legislation for volunteer firefighters

WA Emergency Services Minster Joe Francis this week said the Government will investigate introducing legislation for some volunteer firefighters which will make it easier to get workers’ compensation if they suffer certain types of cancer, the ABC reported. This followed the passage of a bill that gives these rights to career firefighters. Further information here:

The law will operate on the presumption that firefighters got certain cancers at work. Firefighters with cancer currently face a difficult task in most cases in claiming insurance, including workers compensation, because they face the requirement of identifying which chemicals, on which dates, at which incidents, might have caused their illness.

The bill did not cover volunteer or DPaW firefighters. The government indicated that extending the legislation to volunteers would probably only involve those who fought structural fires. “What you’ve got to remember is that career full-time, fire and rescue firefighters predominantly battle structural fires that are covered with toxins and carcinogens,” Francis said.

WA Nationals MP Martin Aldridge says governments need to closely investigate health impacts on volunteer and DPAW firefighters.

South Australia is debating similar legislation but it is being held up by the opposition as it wants volunteers included. The SA Government did offer to include volunteers who attend 35 structure, car and hazardous materials fire a year, in the legislation. That was rejected by the Country Fire Service, which says the threshold is too high and equates to about 3 per cent of its members. While the legislation remains in limbo, the CFS is banking on community support and looking to present a petition of 20,000 signatures to Parliament in coming weeks, the ABC reported.

In September Tasmania was the first state to pass such legislation which also covered volunteer firefighters, the Hobart Mercury reported.

Postscript:  In October, 2012, the then emergency minister, Troy Buswell said  the government would  “amend legislation to ensure a career or volunteer firefighter who developed a prescribed cancer – one of 12 cancers as scheduled in the Commonwealth legislation – would have greatly simplified workers’ compensation considerations.
“It has been established that firefighters are at an increased risk of developing certain cancers through exposure to carcinogens while performing lifesaving roles for the community,” he said.
“This legislation will provide cover for career and volunteer firefighters who predominantly undertake structural firefighting duties, and retrospectively take into account their past years of service.”