OHS Canada Magazine

Ontario expands WCB cancer coverage for firefighters

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March 3, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety cancer firefighter firefighters Occupational Cancer ontario

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Ontario is expanding workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

These changes will make it faster and easier for these heroes and their families to access the compensation and supports they deserve for thyroid and pancreatic cancers from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), it said.

“In every community, firefighters are on the front lines each and every day saving lives,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “These everyday heroes work tirelessly to protect the communities we live in and, in return, they deserve to get the care and support they need. By expanding the list of presumptive cancers to include thyroid and pancreatic cancers, firefighters will get faster access to compensation and other benefits, ultimately supporting their recovery.”

Death rate four times higher

Firefighters die of cancer at a rate up to four times higher than the general population. On average, 50 to 60 firefighters die of cancer yearly in Canada, and half of those are from Ontario. Proposed changes by the government will streamline the assessment of WSIB claims by presuming they are work-related.

“Firefighters put service over self each day, ready to approach dangerous situations to protect their communities,” said Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General. “In recognition of their courage, we have a duty to enhance the safety, health, and wellness of our community heroes. By expanding WSIB coverage for firefighters to include thyroid and pancreatic cancers, we continue to promote better health outcomes, while honouring their service.”


Coverage retroactive to 1960

Expanded coverage for claims related to thyroid and pancreatic cancers would be retroactive to January 1, 1960. These changes would apply to full-time, volunteer, and part-time firefighters, firefighters employed by First Nations band councils and fire investigators.

“Preventive measures, early detection and support for those suffering and/or succumbing to occupational cancer while serving the residents of Ontario, have proven to be a priority for this government through the unwavering support of Premier Doug Ford, the Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner,” said Greg Horton, president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. “With the addition of pancreatic and thyroid cancers to the list of illnesses already presumed to have come from a long career in firefighting, the Ontario government is sending the message that the health and safety of these first responders is a priority.”

Quick facts

  • There are 437 fire departments and about 30,000 firefighters in Ontario, including about 12,000 full-time firefighters, nearly 19,000 volunteer firefighters and more than 400 part-time firefighters.
  • Five Canadian jurisdictions (Yukon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia) have recently added presumptive entitlement for thyroid and pancreatic cancers.
  • The WSIB, which is completely funded by employer premiums, provides wage-loss benefits, medical coverage, and support to help people get back to work after a work-related injury or illness.

“The World Health Organization has reclassified firefighting to its highest level of occupational risk for cancer. Today’s announcement proves that Ontario’s provincial government is putting firefighters and their families first, by providing faster access to supports and benefits that will aid Ontario’s firefighters in their recoveries.”


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