Considering that firefighters are 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than the rest of the population, Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to deem cancer a work related injury for firefighters makes perfect sense. This new legislation will provide coverage for lost wages and all medical expenses for firefighters who develop cancer.
“Cancer is a very real hazard of the job, and we want to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to help those who serve,” said Baker.
According to Edward Kelly, the general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Firefighters, prior to the new law, firefighters had little choice but to use their sick and personal days to take time off for cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. A MA workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured or become ill on the job.
“As firefighters, we accept the sacrifice of our job as part of our calling,” said Kelly. “But when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave and we go off the payroll and we lose our health care, that is just wrong.”
Dozens of MA families who have been impacted by firefighting-related cancer diagnoses were interviewed by lawmakers in an effort to get this law passed. Richard MacKinnon, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, was particularly moved by the story of Anthony Colarusso, a Plymouth firefighter who died at the age of 39 from esophageal cancer. At the time of Colarusso’s death, he had lost his health insurance and hadn’t received a paycheck in more than three months.
“When this first happened, [Anthony] said he never wanted to see another firefighter go through what he went through,” said Colarusso’s mother. “I know now Tony’s up there and he’s celebrating.”
Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate
Female firefighters are just as at risk of developing work-related cancers as their male counterparts. As such, a provision of the new law includes reproductive and breast cancers.
“We realized that cancer knows no gender and we needed to have the same benefits for our increasing number of female firefighters across the state,” said MacKinnon. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been harmed due to a work-related hazard.
Since 2016, more than 300 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer. Among them, 107 were able to return to work, 99 had to retire due to their illness, and 29 succumbed to the disease.
In most industries, linking cancer to work environment is difficult. That is not, however, the case with firefighting. Another common work-related cancer, mesothelioma, is also easy to trace to work environment. Long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which were used in building installation for decades, is proven to cause mesothelioma. In fact, hundreds of people who haven’t worked around asbestos-laden insulation for three or more decades are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. As a result, mesothelioma has long been a covered illness under workers’ comp. Fortunately, firefighters who develop cancer now have a similar ability to recover compensation for their injuries. Continue reading