PEI

Additional coverage for P.E.I. firefighters offers 'peace of mind'

Additional coverage for P.E.I. firefighters and fire inspectors and will now include specific types of cancer and heart injuries as of Jan. 1.

New coverage in place with P.E.I.'s Workers Compensation Act amendments

'There was cases in the past that WCB did cover but they had to go through adjudication,' says PEI Firefighters Association president Gerard McMahon, right, with Workforce Minister Sonny Gallant, centre, and WCB Board Chair Stuart Affleck. (Submitted by Workers Compensation Board)

Additional coverage for P.E.I. firefighters and fire inspectors and will now include specific types of cancer and heart injuries as of Jan. 1.  

Until now, P.E.I. was the only province that did not consider cancer in firefighters as an occupational disease.

You'll be covered and won't have to fight for it.— Gerard McMahon

"It's great. It gives us a good peace of mind," said Gerard McMahon, president of the PEI Firefighters Association.

"They're covered now if they get cancer now. There was cases in the past that WCB did cover but they had to go through adjudication.

"But now with the presumptive legislation, it's automatic if you meet the minimum criteria for the years you've been a firefighter. You'll be covered and won't have to fight for it," McMahon said.

Presumed to be work-related

The new coverage comes as a result of amendments made to P.E.I.'s Workers Compensation Act.

The changes are designed to ensure if a firefighter or fire inspector develop specific diseases, they will be presumed to be work-related illnesses.

Both full-time and part-time firefighters and fire inspectors as well as volunteer firefighters who are members of a fire department or brigade are now covered under the amendment.

Presumption would apply to firefighters who experience a heart injury such as a heart attack, cardiac arrest or arrhythmia within 24 hours of responding to an emergency.

Limits to lung cancer coverage

Coverage would also apply to specific types of cancers if a firefighter has been exposed to the hazards of a fire over a minimum cumulative period of time, including brain, bladder, esophageal and lung cancer. 

In cases where a firefighter has primary site lung cancer, the presumptive coverage applies only if the firefighter has been a non-smoker for 10 consecutive years prior to the initial diagnosis.

WCB approached the PEI Firefighters Association and provided it with a list of possible coverage options for the organization to help select a finalized list, McMahon said. 

"We got to pick — look at all the other legislation that's been put in place across Canada — and we kind of got to cherry pick the best coverage," he said.        

"It's good to see the government put it in place."

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About the Author

Sam Juric

Web Writer

Sam Juric is a journalist with CBC P.E.I.

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