B.C. expands cancer coverage for firefighters

B.C. expands cancer coverage for firefighters
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Cancer coverage has been expanded for firefighters in British Columbia.

The B.C. government announced Tuesday that it has amended the Firefighters’ Occupational Disease Regulation under the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) and added pancreatic and thyroid cancer to the list of cancers and heart diseases that firefighters are at increased risk of developing.

The amendments, according to the province, ensure workers who become ill or injured on the job face fewer barriers to accessing workers’ compensation benefits and resources.

“Despite the safety equipment, firefighters are still exposed to dangerous substances from burning materials,” Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, said in a statement. “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.”

According to the province, if a firefighter develops one of the cancers on the list after a certain period of employment — it is presumed the cancer came as a result of their employment — the firefighter will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits without being required to prove the cancer is work-related.

“Recognizing the health challenges that firefighters face is extremely important to our membership as they put their lives on the line every day in communities across this province,” said Gord Ditchburn, president, BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association. “I am very grateful to this government for listening to us, expanding the list of work-related cancers, and better supporting B.C.’s firefighters.”

B.C. recognizes 18 cancers as occupational diseases for firefighters including cervical, ovarian and penile cancer.

“Firefighters are there for us when we are at our most vulnerable, and we need to be there for them when they need us,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement. “Their job places them in risk of exposure to toxic materials. If they get sick or hurt on the job, they deserve to have every support we can provide.”


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