Volunteer firefighters should be insured, labour bureaucrat says
Kings County covers emergency responders through Workers' Compensation Board
More than 2,300 Nova Scotia firefighters and first responders are not insured against a work-related death or injury, and a senior bureaucrat says it's time to change that.
Most of those not covered are volunteers, meaning they'd get no compensation or rehabilitation.
On Tuesday, a senior labour department bureaucrat urged more municipalities to follow the lead of the Municipality of Kings County, which last spring decided to pay to have their volunteers covered by the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.
Duff Montgomerie, the deputy minister of labour, told committee members it costs about $60 a year per firefighter.
"It's not a lot of money if folks can really focus," he said.
"A lot of the rural departments aren't terribly busy, but when they are I mean it can be a very serious situation, so that's why we encourage those municipal units to pick up that coverage."
Kings County spending $27,000 for coverage
Brian Hirtle agrees. He's on King County council and lobbied for decades to get the municipality to pay the WCB premiums.
The municipality is spending $27,000 this year to cover the 450 firefighters who staff the 13 stations in the county.
Hirtle said that coverage should make it easier for fire departments to recruit new volunteers.
The question regularly comes up with potential recruits. "'What happens if I get hurt?'" said Hirtle. "'You know I have two young children and a wife at home and I don't carry any coverage from my work.'"
Hirtle said the price of the premium — $60 per person — is well worth it.
"It's a pretty small number to know that they're protected 24-7," he said.
Of the 7,000 firefighters in the province, 3,560 are covered by the Workers' Compensation Board. Another 1,100 who work for or volunteer with the Halifax Fire Service are privately insured.