Workers compensated for contracting cancer

by Stephanie Zillman01 May 2013

Tasmania will become the first state in Australia to directly compensate fire fighters who contract a serious illness in the line of duty. If the bill is passed, it will mean firefighters will not have to go through what is considered an almost impossible process of proving which chemicals caused their cancer.

Tasmanian Emergency Management Minister, David O’Byrne, yesterday introduced the bill to establish a ‘Presumptive Workers Compensation Scheme’ for all career and volunteer fire fighters.

“[Firefighters] face dangers most workers simply don’t – including exposure to dangerous chemicals. Those extra dangers need extra protections including special presumptive access to Workers Compensation. We won’t leave fire fighters to suffer without support. We’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder, in honour of their outstanding commitment to our community. It’s the right and decent thing to do,” he said.

Tasmania currently has almost 300 career fire fighters, and almost 5000 volunteer officers. Under current protections, a fire fighter who contracts cancer after being exposed to toxic chemicals may not be eligible for Workers Compensation.

Under the new legislation:
 

  • Any fire fighter who contracts one of 12 types of cancer will be presumed to have done so in the course of their work - subject to qualifying employment periods, and exposure through fire incidents.
     
  • All career and volunteer fire fighters will be covered.
     
  • Retired career fire-fighters will be covered for 10 years after retirement.
     
  • Retired volunteer fire fighters will be covered for 10 years after the last fire incident they attended (although the law is not retrospective).
     
  • Career fire-fighters employed before 1998 won’t have to meet exposure requirements, because exposure data wasn’t collected before then.
     
  • The costs of the scheme will be covered through existing Workers Compensation insurance provisions.
     
  • Fire fighters will be entitled to claim medical expenses, as per existing workers compensation arrangements. If they can’t work, weekly payments are available under the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

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