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Pennsylvania firefighters may get workers' compensation for cancer

Workplace accidents that cause injuries like broken bones or serious head trauma are often more easily documented than illnesses contracted in the workplace. But in certain circumstances, workers do contract a work-related medical condition and seek compensation for medical expenses and lost wages that can result.

York County firefighters deal with a lot of stress and chaos on the job. Now, they may soon be allowed to collect workers' compensation if they contract cancer caused by exposure to cancer-causing agents while working.

The proposed piece of legislation that would make this possible has passed through the state's House and Senate; it is currently awaiting the governor's signature. Under the bill, both volunteer and regular full-time fire fighters could be eligible to apply for workers' compensation as long as certain conditions are met.

The criteria require that:

  • Firefighters have a minimum of four years on the job
  • Proper documentation is provided that shows the firefighter was exposed to the cancer causing agent
  • Firefighters pass a physical exam that shows they were free of cancer (this can occur at any time during their career)

In addition, firefighters who have a history of smoking, worked in a factory, or had a history of cancer in their family may find their claims disputed. One firefighter who has been working to get the bill passed, noted that firefighters cannot seek benefits if it is likely that the cancer was not caused by the work-related carcinogens.

It seems unlikely that a large number of firefighters will step forward and claim benefits for work-related cancer. But the bill will help to protect the few who do contract the illness and are impacted both financially and personally.

Source: York Daily Record online, "Bill could give firefighters workers' compensation for cancer," Rebecca LeFever, 05 July 2011

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