Each day, firefighters throughout the Pittsburgh area provide an invaluable service. Communities rely upon crews made up of both paid and volunteer firefighters. In addition to putting out fires, these firefighters also routinely rescue individuals, sometimes saving their lives.
Regular readers of this blog are likely aware that various employers throughout the state of Pennsylvania must purchase workers' compensation insurance for their employees. This is not limited to private companies. Municipalities must provide it as well to protect employees such as these firefighters. This insurance is designed to provide benefits to those who suffer a work injury.
In July of 2011, the Firefighter Cancer Prevention Act went into effect. Under it, firefighters became eligible for a series of benefits in situations where cancer is diagnosed due to exposure of carcinogens regularly found at the scenes of fires and other sites. The law covers both firefighters who are paid, as well as those who volunteer. Because it can take years for cancer to develop after exposure, some firefighters have up to 11 ½ years to file a claim for benefits.
Benefits are available for:
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits
While the new law is most certainly a positive for employees, it is taking a toll on municipalities. Historically, many municipalities have purchased the workers' compensation insurance from private providers. This may change for many however since the private providers are choosing to not provide the coverage for firefighters. This is apparently due to how expensive even one claim from a firefighter under this act can cost. As an alternative, municipalities may decide to purchase the coverage from the more expensive state's insurance program.
Source: TribLIVE, "Municipalities expect increase in firefighter workers'-comp insurance," Jewels Phraner, Oct. 24, 2012