Manitoba expands workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters

Manitoba expands workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters
Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard, has introduced proposed amendments to the province’s Workers Compensation Act, which would add four new occupational disease presumptions for firefighters.

"Manitoba was the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact a firefighter's disease presumption," said Howard. "These new amendments reflect our ongoing commitment to the brave men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis."

The four new cancers that would be added to the list include multiple myeloma, primary site prostate, skin and, for the first time in Canada, breast cancer. Ten primary-site cancers have been listed since the first presumptive legislation in 2002: brain, bladder, kidney, lung, ureter, colorectal, esophageal and testicular cancers, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia. 

"These amendments would apply to full-, part-time and volunteer firefighters," said Howard.

Manitoba firefighters have worked with government to help bring together the scientific and medical research showing that firefighters experience higher rates of certain cancers, the minister said.

"Firefighters lay their lives on the line not only at the fire scene itself, but also face a higher risk of developing cancer in later years," said Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg. "Firefighters in Winnipeg and across the province applaud the government of Manitoba for recognizing that fact in this important legislation."

In 2002, Manitoba became the first jurisdiction to have a firefighter disease presumption. Five cancers were initially included. In 2005, the Workers Compensation Act was amended to expand the presumption to part-time and volunteer firefighters, add three more cancers and presume heart injuries within 24 hours of an emergency response to be work-related injuries.  In 2009, testicular and esophageal cancers were added.