Six new types of cancer are set to be added to presumptive coverage for firefighters through the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB).
Once the amendment is passed, firefighters will be able to claim prostate, skin, breast, multiple myeloma, cervical and ovarian cancer as occupational diseases. Female-focused cancers are being added due to the changing demographics of people entering the profession.
Saskatoon firefighter Shauna Baccus said there’s a sense in fire departments that it’s just a matter of time before they get cancer. This is because of the sheer amount of carcinogens they are exposed to in the line of duty on a daily basis.
“Within the last probably three or four funerals that I’ve attended as a member of the fire department’s honour guard they were actual occupational cancer that we did have, so it’s just a matter of time that we start burying people that we’ve worked with,” Baccus said.
Despite the strong likelihood she will get cancer at some point in her life, Baccus said there’s a simple reason she keeps going.
“I love what I do. That’s why I keep going. The end result really doesn’t matter,” Baccus said.
“Firefighters are running toward danger as others run away, and face great risks when performing their duties in often challenging situations,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said.
“They also face the potential of dealing with occupational diseases related to their chosen profession.”
“This is an important day for firefighters across Saskatchewan,” Saskatchewan Professional Firefighters Association president Lloyd Zwack said.
“We appreciate the government continuing to recognize the hazards we face every day and to know that they are just as committed to our long-term health as we are to keeping the province safe.”
Despite wearing respiratory gear, firefighters have an elevated cancer risk due to regular, workplace exposure to carcinogens released by burning synthetic building materials.
In addition to expanded cancer coverage, the province’s amendment will increase the amount of WCB board members.
It will be made of one chairperson, two full-time members — one for workers and one for employers, and four part-time members – two representing workers and employers respectively.
This change comes from recommendations made by a 2016 review committee and public consultation conducted last year.