McGuinty Government Expands Coverage For Firefighters Suffering Work-Related Illness



    Regulation Now Identifies Cancers And Heart Injuries Presumed
    Work-Related

    KINGSTON, ON, June 14 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government has moved to
quickly implement a new regulation that provides compensation to full-time
firefighters who suffer fire-related illnesses, Minister of Labour Steve
Peters announced today.
    "We are committed to ensuring fair treatment for all injured workers,"
said Peters speaking at the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association's
10th Annual Convention. "We recognize that firefighters are vital to the
protection of all Ontarians, and we respect their hard work and dedication."
    The regulation follows the May 4, 2007, passage of legislation that
allows the government to identify specific diseases that are presumed to be
work-related for the purpose of workers compensation. The conditions and
qualifications for compensation for eight types of cancer, as well as heart
injuries suffered within 24 hours of fighting a fire or participating in a
fire training exercise are now set under the Workplace Safety and Insurance
Act, 1997 (WSIA).
    "This regulation will ensure that Ontario's workplace insurance system
treats firefighters and their families fairly when a worker's compensation
claim is filed," said Peters.
    The government will now consult with part-time and volunteer firefighters
and fire investigators to determine how to include them in future regulations.

    
    Disponible en français

                             www.labour.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
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                      FIREFIGHTER OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES
    

    Firefighters deserve compensation for fire-related illnesses and the
Ontario government is working to ensure they get the help they need.
    An amendment to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA),
received Royal Assent on May 4, 2007 allowing the government to make
regulations affecting Ontario's full-time, part-time and volunteer
firefighters and fire investigators.
    The government has now introduced a regulation for full-time firefighters
that identifies and sets out the conditions and restrictions in order for each
of eight types of cancer, as well as heart injuries suffered within 24 hours
of fighting a fire or participating in a training exercise involving a
simulated fire emergency, to be presumed to be work-related, unless shown
otherwise.
    Previously, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) had internal
operational policies for dealing with some types of occupational diseases for
firefighters, but generally assessed each firefighter claim on a case-by-case
basis to determine if the disease was work-related or possibly caused by other
factors not related to a firefighter's job.
    Some Canadian jurisdictions have presumptive legislation to address
specific health concerns of firefighters. This legislation now allows Ontario
to do the same through regulations under the WSIA.

    What Is Presumptive Legislation?

    Presumptive legislation identifies or alternatively allows the government
to identify, through regulations, specific diseases or injuries that would be
presumed to be work-related for the purpose of workers' compensation, unless
the contrary is shown. In the case of heart injuries and the eight types of
cancer specified, the WSIB will now presume, subject to the conditions and
restrictions set out in the regulation, the disease or heart injury,
prescribed in the regulation, to be work-related unless it could be
demonstrated that it was caused by other factors, such as non-work-related
exposure or hereditary factors.
    Presumptive legislation has been enacted in other Canadian jurisdictions,
including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
Many American states also have some kind of presumptive legislation for
firefighters. More information is available in a report prepared by
Parliamentary Assistant Mario Racco on the Ministry of Labour website at
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/reports/firefighters/review.html.

    What Is Ontario's Approach?

    Ontario has taken a unique approach through legislation that allows
specific diseases or heart injuries to be prescribed in regulations under the
WSIA, as opposed to being encoded in the legislation.
    This will allow the list of diseases presumed to be work-related to be
reviewed and updated, through regulation, based on emerging medical
information and input from fire sector stakeholders.
    In establishing this legislative framework, the government took into
consideration a combination of scientific and consultative information,
including:

    
    -   Ministry of Labour Parliamentary Assistant Mario Racco's report on
        the Treatment of Firefighter Cancer Claims by the WSIB, which
        included information provided by fire sector stakeholders
    -   Several studies and medical journals that support a link between
        firefighters and various cancers
    -   The rate of acceptance by the WSIB of firefighter cancer claims
    -   A review of how other jurisdictions have dealt with presumptive
        legislation.

    What Is Unique About This Legislation?

    This legislation is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in Canada.

    -   More firefighters will be able to be covered by regulations. Unlike
        other jurisdictions that cover primarily full-time firefighters, this
        legislation allows for the inclusion of part-time and volunteer
        firefighters, fire investigators and forest firefighters. A
        regulation for full-time firefighters is now in place
    -   Through regulation, eight types of cancer have been identified as
        presumed to be work-related, provided the firefighter has a minimum
        number of years service. This, unlike some other jurisdictions, could
        be relatively easily expanded through a regulation if medical
        information emerges to support it
    -   Through regulation, heart injuries have been presumed to be
        work-related if they occur within 24 hours of a firefighter attending
        a fire or participating in a training exercise involving a simulated
        fire emergency
    -   These changes apply to heart injuries sustained or diseases diagnosed
        on or after January 1, 1960. Claims already decided on by the WSIB or
        the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal can be re-opened
        at the request of the claimant.

    What Diseases Is The Government Regulating?

    The government has included the following illnesses and conditions in the
regulation that applies to full-time firefighters:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Cancer/Illness                Criteria - Years of Service
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Brain cancer                  10 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Bladder cancer                15 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kidney cancer                 20 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Colorectal cancer             10 years (diagnosed prior to 61st birthday)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma        20 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Leukemia (certain types)      15 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Ureter cancer                 15 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Esophageal cancer             25 years
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Heart injury                  Within 24 hours of fighting a fire or
                                  participating in a training exercise
                                  involving a simulated fire emergency
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Due to their unique nature, the government has initiated a consultation to
determine the criteria that would apply to part-time and volunteer
firefighters and fire investigators in further regulations.

    For further information:

    Public enquiries:
    416-326-9299

    Media enquiries:
    Belinda Sutton
    Ministry of Labour
    416-326-7405

    Disponible en français

                             www.labour.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Public enquiries: (416) 326-9299; Media
enquiries: Susan McConnell, Minister's Office, (416) 326-7710; Belinda Sutton,
Ministry of Labour, (416) 326-7405

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