According to Premier Dalton McGuinty, head of the Ontario government, the proposed amendment to Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Act would allow the government to make regulations affecting the province's full-time, part-time and volunteer fire fighters, fire investigators and forest fire fighters.
The motive behind the bill is to eliminate any legal battles between fire fighters who might have incurred cancers as a result of exposure to chemicals and the Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which is in charge in providing compensation for workers. If the bill is passed, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will presume the reported cancers from firefighters are work-related.
“Fire fighters and their families make sacrifices every day to keep Ontarians safe,” said McGuinty. “We're working to make sure these brave men and women get the support they need and deserve if they get sick.”
While it is no longer the responsibility of the fire fighter to prove his or her illness is work-related, Ontario's Minister of Labor Steve Peters noted that before sending out claims, lifestyle factors such as smoking and length of service will be studied before making any final determination.
New Bill Shows “Commitment to Firefighters”
If the bill is passed, the Ontario government would move quickly to:
- Implement a regulation covering full-time firefighters that would identify eight types of cancer as presumed to be work-related.
- Include heart attacks as presumed to be work-related if they occur within 24 hours of a fire.
- Consult with fire investigators and part-time and volunteer firefighters to develop the eligibility criteria for how the regulation would apply to these groups.
“This legislation recognizes the dangers firefighters face,” said Fred LeBlanc, president of the Ontario Professional Firefighters' Association. “This initiative demonstrates leadership by the Ontario government and a commitment to firefighters.”
In addition, the government plans to implement other initiatives for workplace safety improvements such as providing municipalities with a $30-million Ontario Fire Service Grant to improve services and hiring 200 new health and safety inspectors to carry out inspections of high-risk workplaces up to four times a year.
Also, the government plans to introduce a new regulation to protect people who work in confined spaces.