Saskatchewan firefighters gain better occupational cancer coverage

November 6, 2023

Expanded protection for firefighters

Firefighters in Saskatchewan, Canada, have recently gained expanded occupational cancer coverage, as the province’s government included six new cancers under the presumption of being job-related.

The announcement on October 25 confirmed that pancreatic, thyroid, penile, laryngeal cancer, mesothelioma, and soft tissue sarcoma will now be recognized for the purpose of workers’ compensation claims, facilitating a smoother and more just process for affected professionals.

Government recognition for growing cancer concern

This move is a significant step for the firefighting community and marks Saskatchewan as holding the highest number of recognized occupational cancers in Canada.

The change underscores the growing acknowledgment of the risks associated with the firefighting profession.

The President of the Saskatchewan Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association (SPFFPA), Lloyd Zwack, commented on the update, expressing gratitude towards the provincial government for their action: “We’re grateful to the Government of Saskatchewan for recognizing a broader range of cancers linked to our profession,” said Zwack.

“Cancer is an epidemic in the fire service in Saskatchewan as it is across Canada, and this new coverage will ensure those affected by these cancers receive the care and the compensation they deserve.”

A national benchmark set by new coverage

With the addition of these six cancers, the total number of cancers deemed occupational for firefighters in Saskatchewan reaches 22, setting a new national standard for protection and benefits.

The update is also reflective of the staggering statistics that showcase the prevalence of occupational cancer within the profession.

According to data, from 2013 to 2022, out of all line-of-duty deaths of Canadian IAFF members, 94.4 percent were due to recognized occupational cancers, which includes the loss of 15 SPFFPA members.

Continued battle against occupational cancer

IAFF’s General President, Edward Kelly, further emphasized the importance of such coverage for firefighters, saying: “Presumptive coverage is critical to ensuring firefighters diagnosed with cancer have the resources and care they rightly deserve.

“I’m glad our members across Saskatchewan have these additional protections, and their province continues to join the battle to support firefighters with cancer.”

Legislation history and coverage beyond cancer

Saskatchewan first introduced presumptive legislation for firefighters in 2003 and has since broadened its scope.

The province’s commitment to firefighter health also extends beyond cancer, with legislation encompassing heart injury and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Presumptive laws first appeared in Manitoba in 2002, and similar legislation now exists across all Canadian provinces and territories.

FSJA Comment

The decision by the Saskatchewan government to broaden the occupational cancer coverage for firefighters is a testament to the evolving understanding of the risks associated with this heroic profession. By setting a national benchmark, Saskatchewan enhances the support system for those who have dedicated their lives to saving others, addressing a critical health crisis within the fire service. The SPFFPA’s representation of over a thousand members underscores the scale of this positive impact. With such progress, the precedent for other regions to follow suit strengthens, and the acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by these professionals gains momentum.

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