Yukon passes presumptive legislation for firefighters

10 cancers to be considered work-related

The Yukon has passed a law adding presumptive provisions for firefighters, including cardiac arrest and 10 cancers.

Bill 95, an Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act, adds special presumptive provisions for current and former firefighters, effective July 1, 2011. Presumptive provisions mean the usual Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board (YWCHSB) determination of whether an injury or illness is work-related is not required in special presumptive circumstances.

All Yukon firefighters (full-time, part-time, volunteer and wild land firefighters) will be included in a presumption for cardiac arrest within 24 hours of fighting a fire. Yukon is the only jurisdiction in the country to apply this presumptive legislation for wild land firefighters.

Presumptive legislation is also provided for full-time firefighters who contract specified primary cancers demonstrated to be caused by cumulative fire fighting activities. Leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, bladder, brain, colorectal, esophageal, kidney, lung, ureter and testicular cancers will be considered work-related diseases for full-time Yukon firefighters.

The Bill also contains a provision that allows the commissioner in executive council to add to the listed primary cancers as new evidence is obtained. Presumption on any added primary cancers will be retroactive to July 1, 2011.

Improved occupational health and safety regulations have also been prepared to better protect full-time firefighters from developing occupational cancers or cardiac arrest, according to the YWCHSB.

Presumption for the specified primary cancers will be effective for volunteer and part-time firefighters no later than three years from the date of the ascent of the bill, retroactive to July 1, 2011. Improved prevention regulations for volunteer and part-time firefighters will be developed in conjunction with the effective date of their cancer presumption.

“Acknowledging that certain cancers and cardiac arrest in firefighters will be considered work related means a lot to firefighters and their families,” said Don McKnight of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2217 Whitehorse. “Should they be faced with one of these situations, they can feel some comfort knowing that they and their family will have the support of their government and YWCHSB.”

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