Ontario government moves to better protect firefighters

"They have earned stronger, more expansive coverage"

Ontario government moves to better protect firefighters

Insurance News

By Terry Gangcuangco

The Ontario government is poised to introduce new legislation aimed at providing enhanced Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage for wildland firefighters and investigators, matching the benefits currently available to municipal firefighters. The benefits include presumptive coverage for certain cancers, heart injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the legislative proposal, the requirements for primary-site skin cancer presumptive coverage will be updated in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, reducing the necessary employment duration from 15 to 10 years. The adjustment is backed by increasing evidence that firefighters, including those tackling wildland blazes, face greater risks of skin cancer.

David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, said: “In every corner of our province, firefighters, fire investigators, and volunteers put their lives on the line to keep our families and communities safe. These frontline heroes deserve a government that values their service and sacrifice – they have earned stronger, more expansive coverage.

“Our government is serving those who serve by expanding cancer coverage and ensuring wildland firefighters have the same health coverages that municipal firefighters do. This builds on the progress we’ve made in our previous Working for Workers legislation, and we will continue to work with the firefighting community as part of our long-term plan to safeguard the health and safety of our frontline heroes.”

Greg Horton, president of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association, noted: “Studies have shown that firefighters have a 21% higher risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, even though it represents only 1% of all skin cancers. They also have a higher risk of other types of skin cancers. The current latency period is 15 years.

“In Ontario, firefighters are developing serious melanomas earlier, making them ineligible for compensation under the current system. We thank Ontario’s government for recognizing that the legislation requires updating and amending the latency period to 10 years, thus ensuring fairer treatment for firefighters and their families who face health issues due to their service.

“We applaud the government for expanding the coverage to include wildland firefighters who also are at risk due to their occupation.”

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