Manitoba extending WCB presumptions for cancer, heart injury to firefighters who battle wildfires
Legislation firefighter manitoba presumptive coverage Workers Compensation
Firefighters who battle wildfires in Manitoba will soon have presumptive workers’ compensation coverage for cancer and heart injury.
The province has introduced Bill 25, The Workers Compensation Amendment Act (Wildfire Firefighters), to extend the same benefit that applies to other firefighters in Manitoba.
“Wildfire firefighters work diligently in extreme, hazardous conditions to protect the environment and public health and safety, and their occupational demands are ever increasing as climate change causes wildfire seasons to become longer and more severe,” said Labour and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes. “This bill recognizes that the hazards of wildfires are on a similar scale to those experienced in urban firefighting and ensures wildfire fighters benefit from the same presumption as other firefighters.”
When firefighters contract certain types of primary cancers or heart injuries, the firefighter presumption makes it easier to establish that their cancer or injury is related to work. Currently, the presumption does not apply to wildfire firefighters.
Under the current act, if firefighters or Office of the Fire Commissioner personnel are diagnosed with one of 19 designated cancers or suffer a heart injury within 24 hours of responding to an emergency, the act presumes this to be a work-related illness or injury.
By adding a definition of ‘wildfire firefighter’ to the firefighter presumption, it would apply equally to all firefighters.
The minister noted wildfire firefighters, like urban firefighters, are exposed to varying levels of smoke with the potential for exposure to carcinogens. In addition, like other types of firefighters, wildfire firefighters are exposed to similar stresses of heavy muscular work, extreme temperatures, sympathetic nervous system activation and exposure to smoke, and are therefore at a similar risk for suffering a heart injury. As such, they should receive the same treatment as other firefighters in Manitoba, noted Reyes.
“While these changes will more effectively address the risks posed to wildfire firefighters, prevention and risk mitigation remain a central focus of Manitoba’s occupational safety and health framework,” said Reyes.