Extended benefits for firefighters among proposed workers comp changes

Three cancers added to list of illnesses presumed to be work-related

Manitoba’s labour minister has tabled a bill that would extend workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters, eliminate benefit reductions for older workers and make the Workers Compensation Board, not the employer, shoulder the cost of transporting injured workers to the hospital.

The bill would also open the door for the government to expand coverage following consultation with stakeholders.

“About 30 per cent of Manitoba workers are currently not covered by workers compensation, one of the highest percentages in the country,” said Labour Minister Nancy Allan in a release. “The first priority will be workers in industries where it makes the most sense, such as outside window washers and those in medical testing laboratories.”

The proposed amendments to the province’s Workers Compensation Act follow a legislative review process, which wrapped up in February. About 200 hearings were held across the province.

The bill would add certain types of cancers to the list of presumptive workplace illnesses for firefighters, including primary site colorectal or ureter and primary site lung cancers. Heart attacks that occur within 24 hours of an emergency response would also be presumed to be work-related injuries, if the bill is passed. The presumptions would also apply to part-time firefighters and volunteer firefighters.

The bill also proposes the following changes:

•wage replacement for minimum wage earners would be 100 per cent;

•benefit reductions would be eliminated for injured workers with longer claims and workers who are 45 or older;

•benefits for permanent injury would increase;

•the cost of transporting injured workers to hospital would be borne by the WCB and not the employer;

•employers would be able to request a medical review panel in certain circumstances;

•new provisions would help prevent employers from paying duplicate assessments for coverage in different jurisdictions; and

•directors of corporations who are employers would be covered by employer liability protection.

The bill would also place a stronger emphasis on prevention measures. Between 2000 and 2004, the province’s time loss injury rate decreased by about 22 per cent, stated Allan.

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