Three more cancers have been added to the Firefighters Occupational Disease Regulation under the the province’s Workmen’s Compensation Act.
They are breast cancer, prostate cancer and multiple myeloma, B.C.’s jobs minister Shirley Bond announced Monday.
“On the job, firefighters are exposed to very real hazards and their work saves lives and keeps our communities safe,” Bond said. “That is why we’re enabling regulatory changes to support three new cancer presumptions for them. 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, noted the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training and responsible for labour in a press release announcing the changes.
The firefighter is then eligible for workers’ compensation benefits without having to provide evidence that the cancer is work-related.
Back in 2005, 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.
In 2014 the Province fulfilled its commitment to restore heart disease and heart injury as a workers’ compensation presumption for firefighters.
But what about PTSD for first responder claims?
At a PTSD forum held in Surrey at the end of February, Surrey Now reporter Amy Reid cited data from Worksafe B.C. showing from July 2, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2015, 432 first responders submitted mental health claims and of those, 154 were allowed.
The Williams Lake Fire Department, however, has been proactive about dealing with the impact of PTSD for its members.
Deputy Fire Chief Rob Warnock said the department did some initial training in November and will continue with more group training next fall.
“It worked out very well we did the training in November because a month later we had that double fatal fire at the trailer park,” Warnock said. “The team was put into action to talk to the members, we had constant talks with certain people and it went very well.”
Right now the department can work one on one where a member can come and talk to Warnock. If it goes above him and how he can help, he can call someone for them to talk to.
“Now we just have to do the group training,” he said.
There was a mentality for many, many years that people “suck it up,” Warnock added.
“You were a firefighter, a police officer, a paramedic and you were expected to move on. I think with all the people talking about it now we are starting to see more and more people coming forward.”
Last year Warnock sat in on a session with the Cariboo Regional District fire chiefs where a guest speaker talked about a female firefighter that had PTSD.
“Her husband was a chief and he hung himself in the fire hall,” Warnock said. “She was trying to deal with her husband’s death when she attended the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in July 2013 and then was dealing with that.”
Cariboo Prince George MP Todd Doherty continues to push for a national framework on PTSD through a private members bill he submitted.
“This is needed from coast to coast,” Doherty told the Cariboo Regional District board Friday in Williams Lake. “We are looking to develop some constant care or diagnosis for those who put their uniforms on every day to serve the communities and our country — the front line workers that really need help.”