In a previous blog, we talked about how despite the fact firefighters risk their lives to protect us, the state of Ohio fails to protect them. Currently, there are no workers’ comp benefits for firefighters who develop cancer after being exposed to hazardous carcinogens for so many years. In order to receive workers’ compensation, firefighters must be able to directly prove their illness was caused specifically from fighting fires.
While we can assume inhaling carcinogens, being exposed to high temperatures and other dangerous chemicals emitted in a typical blaze for a certain amount of years causes higher cancer rates among firefighters, it is of course impossible to prove without a doubt in workers’ comp cases. As a result, many firefighters must pay out-of-pocket to cover medical expenses, despite their years of service.
However, this all about to change with a new bill making its way through Ohio’s House of Representatives.
What is Senate Bill 27?
Ohio Sen. Tom Patton sponsored Senate Bill 27, which passed the upper chamber with a final vote count of 32-1 on April 13th. If the bill ultimately becomes a law, Ohio employers will be required to pay any cancer treatment costs for qualified firefighters through Ohio’s workers’ comp system, rather than requiring the firefighter to go through their own health insurance, which does not always cover the full expense for treatments. The qualifications include the following:
- The firefighter (or former firefighter) must work as an official member of a local Ohio fire department for at least three years
- The firefighter (or former firefighter) must be disabled due to a type of cancer
- It is presumed the firefighter became ill with cancer while performing his hazardous duties as a firefighter, unless “refuted by affirmative evidence to the contrary”
If the cancer was caused by firefighter’s occupation, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) will cover the full cost of treatment and provide the firefighter substantial survivor benefits.
Ohio Should Provide Benefits to Firefighters Who Develop Work-Related Cancer
Although the Senate Bill 27 will cost employers an extra $75 million per year in premiums, this bill is a great step forward. Firefighters are at risk for occupational diseases and it is about time we provide them benefits for their work. Hopefully, this bill passes and Ohio joins the three dozen other states who also provide workers’ comp benefits to the firefighters who risk life and limb to ensure the public remains safe.
Our workers’ comp attorney that fights for workers who have sustained on-the-job injuries in Ohio