A new bill that has made its way through the Idaho senate and will now go before the House could make it easier for firefighters who have chronic illnesses receive workers compensation benefits. The new bill would cover illnesses linked to exposure to contaminants and carcinogens while on the job.
This bill which was introduced by Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie says that in the current state of the industry it is up to the injured worker or firefighter in this case to prove that their illnesses were caused by long term efforts on the job battling fires and such which have caused cancer and other chronic illnesses like COPD and emphysema. What this bill will now do is shift the burden of proof from the firefighter to the government to prove that work and exposure did not cause these illnesses.
The government will still have the opportunity to refute the workers compensation if they feel and find proof that the illness stems from some other incident and not work. To me this is much harder to prove because these firefighters are running in and out of burning buildings inhaling dangerous chemicals and who knows what in an effort to stay people and property with a total disregard for their own health. It takes a special kind of person to do this job and I for one and very happy to see that they will not have to fight as hard to receive the benefits that they rightfully deserve.
The only negative that I see in this bill is that volunteer firefighters are not included and stem to receive no additional benefits as a result of this bill. Volunteer firefighters are exposed to the same conditions and hazards as full time firefighters however in many small communities a full time fire department in just not fiscally possible. These men and women do this on top of their regular jobs to keep their communities safe. When they are injured or worse killed they do receive benefits, but not like full time firefighters. It would have been nice for them to be included in this bill as this mainly relates to long term exposures and illnesses that are seen after years on the job.
Source: Daily Journal