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Firefighter Occupational Diseases

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Firefighter Occupational Diseases

The new regulation extends the same presumptions that full-time firefighters receive to Ontario's volunteer and part-time firefighters, and fire investigators from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal.

Firefighters deserve compensation for fire-related illnesses and the Ontario government is working to ensure they get the help they need.

An amendment to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA), received Royal Assent on May 4, 2007, allowing the government to make regulations affecting Ontario's full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters and fire investigators.

The McGuinty government then implemented a regulation for full-time firefighters that identifies and sets out the conditions and restrictions for eight types of cancer, as well as heart injuries suffered within 24 hours of fighting a fire or participating in a training exercise involving a simulated fire emergency, to be presumed to be work-related, unless shown otherwise.

Previously, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) had internal operational policies for dealing with some types of occupational diseases for firefighters, but generally assessed each firefighter claim on a case-by-case basis to determine if the disease was work-related or possibly caused by other factors not related to a firefighter's job.

Other Canadian jurisdictions have presumptive legislation to address specific health concerns of firefighters. Ontario's legislation allows it to do the same through regulations under the WSIA.

What is presumptive legislation?

Ontario's presumptive legislation allows the government to identify, through regulations, specific diseases or injuries that are presumed to be work-related for the purpose of workers' compensation, unless proven otherwise.  In the case of heart injuries and the eight types of cancer specified in regulation, the WSIB will now presume - subject to the conditions and restrictions set out in the regulation - that the disease or heart injury are work-related unless it is demonstrated that it was caused by other factors, such as non-work-related exposure or hereditary factors.

Presumptive legislation has been enacted in other Canadian jurisdictions, including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.  Many American states also have some kind of presumptive legislation for firefighters.

What is Ontario's approach?

Our approach allows the list of diseases presumed to be work-related to be reviewed and updated, through regulation, based on emerging medical information and input from fire sector stakeholders.

In establishing this legislative framework and regulations, the government took into consideration a combination of scientific and consultative information, including:

  • Information provided by and consultation with fire sector stakeholders and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario
  • Several studies and medical journals that support a link between firefighters and various cancers
  • The rate of acceptance by the WSIB of firefighter cancer claims
  • A review of how other jurisdictions have dealt with presumptive legislation.

What is the government regulating?

The government has included the following illnesses and conditions in the regulation that applies to full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters, and fire investigators.

Criteria - Years of Service

Brain cancer

10 years

Bladder cancer

15 years

Kidney cancer

20 years

Colorectal cancer

10 years (diagnosed prior to 61st birthday)

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

20 years

Leukemia (certain types)

15 years

Ureter cancer

15 years

Esophageal cancer

25 years

Heart injury

Within 24 hours of fighting a fire or participating in a training exercise involving a simulated fire emergency

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