B.C. recognizing heart disease in firefighters as job-related condition

The government of British Columbia is tabling legislation under the Workers Compensation Act to restore heart disease in firefighters as a presumptive disease recognized by WorkSafeBC.

This proposed amendment to the Workers Compensation Act fulfills government’s election commitment to restore heart disease in firefighters — including forest firefighters — to the list of presumptive diseases recognized by WorkSafeBC.

Under the proposed amendment, if a firefighter suffers from heart disease or a heart injury — including a heart attack — it will be presumed to be due to their work as a firefighter unless the contrary is proved.

The presumptions will apply if the claimant was employed as a firefighter at or immediately before the date of disablement from heart injury or disease.

This legislation will thus support B.C. firefighters in receiving workers’ compensation should they suffer from heart disease or heart injury as a result of their work.

Finally, the presumption will apply to eligible firefighters who first become disabled from heart disease or heart injury on or after the day the legislation comes into force on royal assent.

The proposed legislation if passed would make the province the only jurisdiction in Canada to have a presumption for heart disease embedded in its workers’ compensation legislation.

“Firefighters are exposed to a real toxic combination through their work on a daily basis. This, along with the heat and mental stressors faced by the profession, means that heart injuries due to the nature of the job are a reality for firefighters," said Michael Hurley, president, BC Professional Firefighters Association. "Having heart presumption restored is so important to firefighters because it means that while we are fighting to save our own lives we will not have the added stress of fighting a WorkSafeBC claim at the same time."