Workers comp for firefighters with cancer

    Firefighters say on-the-job toxins increase their cancer risk

    When a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, most states assume that illness is related to occupational hazards. That is not the case in Pennsylvania. In the Commonwealth, firefighters with cancer don’t have easy access to worker compensation, including health care and wage reimbursement. (Photo: Flickr/Rossco)

    Art Martynuska leads the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association, which is lobbying for a bill that would change the law.

    Martynuska: What this does, is actually mimics what 31 states currently have already have it, that if you are involved in the fire service and you come down with one of several types of cancer, the presumption is that you got that as a result of exposure to things on the job.

    The association says its members commonly encounter diesel exhaust, carbon monoxide, asbestos and other toxins at work.

    Martynuska: By the nature of our business we have more of a chance of coming down with one of these cancers that can be directly related to what we do on a daily basis. It’s an occupational hazard that we have to deal with.

    Under the bill, employers could dispute the assumption that a cancer was caused by workplace exposures, but the bill shifts the burden of proof from the firefighter to the employer.

    The bill cleared the state House of Representatives, and will be debated in the senate.

    Martynuska says 31 states have laws that assume that a firefighter’s cancer is job-related, and therefore covered by workers compensation.

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