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B.C. adds to cancer coverage for firefighters

Presumptions now include breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma
| www.cos-mag.com
Cancer list expands for B.C. firefighters
Firefighters stand in the rain waiting after a mudslide on the Trans-Canada Highway in Popkum, B.C., in this 2011 file photo. The occupants of a car escaped without injury after the 40-metre wide mudslide came down the mountain covering the highway in both directions. REUTERS/Andy Clark

The government of British Columbia is moving ahead with an amendment to the Firefighters Occupational Disease Regulation under the Workers Compensation Act to add presumptions for breast cancer, prostate cancer and multiple myeloma as occupational diseases for firefighters.

“On the job, firefighters are exposed to very real hazards and their work saves lives and keeps our communities safe. That is why we’re enabling regulatory changes to support three new cancer presumptions for them,” said Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond. “This change is a meaningful step that acknowledges the tremendous risks firefighters take any time they are called to duty.”

A presumption means if a professional or volunteer firefighter develops one of the listed cancers after a certain period of employment, it is presumed that the cancer arose from their employment. The firefighter is then eligible for workers’ compensation benefits without having to provide evidence that the cancer is work-related.

The province first recognized certain cancers as occupational diseases for firefighters in 2005. Cancer presumptions for firefighters are already recognized for: brain, bladder, colorectal, kidney, ureter, testicular, lung, esophageal, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia

As well, in 2014 the province fulfilled its commitment to restore heart disease and heart injury as a workers’ compensation presumption for firefighters.

“Firefighters are exposed to toxic environments that greatly contribute to increased cancer risks, more than double that of the general population,” said Gord Ditchburn, B.C. Professional Firefighters Association president and board chair. “The addition of these presumptive coverages will benefit firefighters in every region of British Columbia, including the families who are often the ones left to navigate the claims process with WorkSafeBC.”

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