AUSTRALIA: TASMANIA’S volunteer firefighters will be soon protected by workers compensation laws intended to cover them for cancers related to their work.
Emergency Services Minister Rene Hidding today announced “presumptive cancer” laws would be extended to cover the state’s 5000 volunteer fire brigade members.
Tasmania was the first Australian state to adopt presumptive cancer legislation to directly compensate volunteer and career firefighters, with new laws enacted in 2013.
Firefighters suffering any of 12 cancer types are presumed to have contracted the disease from their work, unless evidence suggests otherwise.
There have been seven claims made in Tasmania since the laws were introduced. Four have been accepted, three rejected, and one is still being assessed.
Mr Hidding said legislation extending the coverage would be introduced to parliament soon and was expected to take effect from early next year.
“Our volunteer firefighters are hugely important to the state of Tasmania and to the community of Tasmania,” he said.
“Their presumptive cancer cover will be the same as for career firefighters.
“Up until now there has been a very high bar for volunteer firefighters to have access to support should they contract certain kinds of cancers that could be related to their service to the state.
Legislation will be introduced to parliament soon and cover expected to begin from next year
Ms Hidding said that testing for the toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam — known as “PFAS” which were used in Tasmania until 2012 would continue.
ABC-TV’s Four Corners this week raised concerns about PFAS contamination and its risks to human health.
“There’s been tests done, particularly in areas where it has been used a lot and it’s been found to be within acceptable limits.
“But testing will be ongoing.”
Tasmania Fire Service chief Chris Arnol welcomed the announcement for the increased coverage for firefighters and said the coming bushfire season could be a difficult one for the state.
“Let’s not have a false sense of security about the rain we’re receiving now, certainly on the west coast and around the northwest we’ve received a lot of rain. But along the east coast from Binalong Bay to Bruny Island we have a coastal strip that is particularly dry right now and the rain is not reaching it and that’s going to cause us difficulties from right now.
He said the Derwent Valley and the Fingal Valley were areas of particular concern.”