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The Workers Compensation Act has recently been amended to include new types of cancer for which presumptive coverage is available to firefighters and Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) personnel.  These new types of cancer are:  cervical, ovarian, penile, pancreatic, and thyroid.

This new presumptive coverage came into effect on April 1, 2022.

Which cancers does the WCB provide “presumptive coverage” for?

The Workers Compensation Act now lists 19 primary-site cancers:

Cancer

Minimum Employment Period

Primary leukemia

5 years

Primary site bladder cancer

15 yrs

Primary site brain cancer

10 yrs

Primary site colorectal cancer (includes colon cancer)

15 yrs

Primary site esophageal cancer

25 yrs

Primary site kidney cancer

20 yrs

Primary site lung cancer (in non-smokers)

15 yrs

Primary site testicular cancer

10 yrs

Primary site ureter cancer

15 yrs

Primary non-Hodgkins lymphoma

20 yrs

Multiple myeloma

15 yrs

Primary site prostate cancer

15 yrs

Primary site skin cancer

15 yrs

Primary site breast cancer

10 yrs

Primary site cervical cancer

10 yrs

Primary site ovarian cancer

10 yrs

Primary site penile cancer

15 yrs

Primary site pancreatic cancer

10 yrs

Primary site thyroid cancer

10 yrs

 

What does “presumptive coverage” mean?

It means that each cancer is presumed to be an occupational disease where the dominant cause was employment as a firefighter, unless there is sufficient evidence of non-employment related causes.

Do these rules apply to all firefighters?

They apply to all full-time, part-time, volunteer, and casual firefighters, as well as Office of Fire Commissioner personnel, if they have been regularly exposed to the hazards of a fire scene (other than a forest-fire scene) for prescribed minimum periods of employment.

Some firefighters and OFC personnel may not meet the minimum period of employment as set out in the regulation. When this occurs, the WCB adjudicates each case on its merits. 

What other presumptive coverage is available specifically for firefighters and OFC personnel?

Heart injury (not heart disease), when suffered within 24 hours after attending an emergency response scene, is also presumed to be a work-related injury for firefighters and OFC personnel (unless the contrary is shown). There is no minimum exposure period for this coverage. The heart injury presumption is effective for injuries on or after June 9, 2005.

Firefighters and OFC personnel are also, of course, covered for other injuries and diseases under the Act.

What factors affect presumptive coverage?

Occupational diseases with presumptive coverage under the Act still require adjudication. Minimum employment periods, for example, must be confirmed. In addition, evidence of non-employment related causes of the disease must be determined and assessed. For example, past history of smoking affects eligibility for lung cancer claims. Detailed rules around this are prescribed in Regulation.

What about previously denied claims for these 5 new cancers?

Firefighters and OFC personnel (or their dependants) can ask the WCB to re-adjudicate the original decision based on current criteria.  

The presumptive coverage applies to full-time firefighters on or after January 1, 1992, and to part-time firefighters or OFC personnel on or after June 9, 2005 (sections 4(5.1) to 4(5.7)).

 

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