Written by Jason Contant, 2008-09-01
Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine
Testicular cancer and lung cancer in non-smokers have been added to British Columbia’s list of diseases presumed to be related to work as a firefighter.
The provincial government has moved forward with the additions to the Firefighters Occupational Disease Regulation under the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA). A worker with at least 20 years employment as a firefighter who is disabled on or after May 27, 2008 from testicular cancer will be covered. Subject to another amendment, non-smoking firefighters who develop lung cancer will also be included, again retroactive to May 27, notes Rob Norris, a spokesperson for British Columbia’s Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services.
Cases of workers affected by testicular or lung cancer before that date will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Just when the changes relating to lung cancer will take effect or how long a worker must be a non-smoker or a firefighter for coverage to apply is not yet known, Norris says. He expects the parameters will be in line with those in other jurisdictions. Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example, provide coverage after 15 years of employment as a firefighter.
Presumptive legislation — for full-time, part-time, volunteer and paid on-call firefighters — relates to primary site cancers. “If you have pancreatic cancer and it later becomes testicular cancer, it wouldn’t be primary site,” Norris says.
“The onus will now be on WorkSafeBC or the employer to bring forward proof to establish why a disabled firefighter should not be eligible for compensation, rather than placing the burden of proof on a sick firefighter,” the ministry notes.
Al Leier, president of the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association, says officials are pleased firefighters will now be able to “concentrate on their health and not on having to prove that it was their work that caused their illness.”
The addition of testicular and lung cancers follow seven primary site cancers already listed, effective April 11, 2005: leukemia (covered after five years of employment), non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (20 years), bladder cancer (15 years), brain cancer (10 years), colorectal cancer (20 years), kidney cancer (20 years) and ureter cancer (15 years).
Firefighters in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia have presumptive legislation. The first five provinces also cover heart injury within 24 hours of exposure, while Alberta and Nova Scotia cover colon cancer after 20 years on the job.
Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer