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Lung cancer now an occupational disease for Ontario firefighters

WSIB claimants require a minimum of 15 years of service


(Canadian OH&S News) — Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act has been amended to include lung cancer as a presumptive work-related disease for firefighters and fire investigators.

The change to the province’s workplace safety legislation went into effect on Jan. 1. Now, Ontario firefighters and fire investigators who meet the employment-duration criteria are no longer required to prove that their lung cancer resulted from their occupation in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is now obligated to assume that the disease is work-related.

The WSIB’s revised operation-policy manual for cancers in firefighters and fire investigators, published online on Jan. 4, included “primary-site lung cancer” on its list of prescribed cancers; the term refers to “malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus, and lung.” An employee of the firefighting sector can claim lung cancer as a chronic occupational disease if he or she has worked in the professional for a minimum of 15 years.

“The eligible years of service is the sum of all employment periods as a firefighter or fire investigator from the date of hire until the date of diagnosis, whether consecutive or non-consecutive,” the WSIB explained in the manual. “If a worker served in more than one capacity as a full-time, part-time or volunteer firefighter or fire investigator in the same period, this period will only be counted once towards the eligible years of service.”

The amendment is retroactive to Jan. 1, 1960. Any firefighter’s cancer diagnosis on or after that date that meets the listed criteria is now presumed occupational, and families of eligible firefighters who have died can also claim benefits.

The new WSIB manual replaced the previous one, which had been dated April 27, 2015.

According to the amended Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, the presumption for lung cancer applies to a claimant who “was employed as a full-time firefighter, part-time firefighter or fire investigator or served as a volunteer firefighter” for the required duration prior to diagnosis and who “did not smoke a tobacco product in the 10 years before being diagnosed.”

This was the latest addition to the types of cancer presumed occupational in Ontario for firefighters. In April 2014, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that breast cancer, multiple myeloma and testicular cancer would be classified as presumptively work-related for firefighters, with prostate, lung and skin cancer to be added to the list by 2017.

The legislative changes were initially spurred by a private member’s bill by Vaughn MPP Steven Del Duca, Wynne said at the time.