Female firefighters part of increased benefits
Health: Province changes regulations to protect fire fighting women
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 06:00 am
Firefighters' Primary Site Cancer Regulation
Brain cancer - 10 years
Bladder cancer - 15 years
Ureter cancer - 15 years
Kidney cancer - 20 years
Colorectal cancer - 20 years
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - 20 years
Lung cancer in non-smokers - 15 years
Testicular cancer - 10 years
Esophegal cancer - 25 years
Prostate cancer - 15 years
Skin cancer - 15 years
Breast cancer - 10 years
Multiple myeloma - 15 years
Cervical cancer - 10 years
Ovarian cancer - 10 years
Female firefighters in Alberta have received positive news from the provincial government.
The provincial government has committed to amending the Workers’ Compensation Act so female firefighters who get ovarian or cervical cancer while on the job qualify for benefits. In addition, the number of years of exposure to qualify for benefits for testicular cancer was reduced from 20 years to 10.
Okotoks Fire Chief Ken Thevenot said it’s good to see more research going into the effects of fighting fires on the human body.
“Having that research done in the last few years and coming up with these conclusions is good to see,” said Thevenot. “If you have a lot of years in at least you know if you do happen to get cancer then you know that your families hopefully would be taken care of as well.”
According to the Alberta Fire Fighters Association, firefighters are six times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, he said.
The Firefighters’ Primary Site Cancer Regulation, part of the Workers’ Compensation Act, came into effect in 2003. The regulation states that if a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer after a minimum number of years of service, which varies depending on cancer type, it is considered an occupational disease.
It’s important to have protection for people who are walking into fires regularly, said Thevenot.
“In the last number of years things have changed so much,” he said. “The different plastics in your house, the different glues, the different materials that homes and businesses are built from today, they’re difference than what they were 30 and 40 years ago.”
Years ago firefighters breathing apparatuses weren’t great, if they were used at all, he said. Over time, the equipment has been updated and policies have changed to make them more effective.
In Okotoks, firefighters adhere to cleaning procedures designed to keep carcinogens from being carried home, he said. There are commercial grade heavy-duty washing machines on-site to clean turnout gear after a fire, and trucks and other vehicles are cleaned on a regular basis, he said.
“People say firefighters are just washing their vehicles, well there’s a reason we’re washing them all the time,” said Thevenot. “We need to make sure where people are touching them with their hands, being near them, to try to minimize any kind of carcinogens that could be left on there.”
Despite their best efforts to stay safe, firefighters are still susceptible to cancer. While there haven’t been any cases during his time in Okotoks, Thevenot said he worked with men who were diagnosed and passed away when he was stationed in Manitoba.
He said he’s pleased with the work the Province has done to improve benefits and include women. There is only one female firefighter in Okotoks at this time, he said. In Alberta, women make up eight per cent of firefighters.
“It’s kind of surreal when you think about how many years of service you have and what you’re eligible for,” said Thevenot. “It’s really good that this research has been done to cover off the males and females both.
“A firefighter’s a firefighter, it doesn’t matter. Cancer doesn’t pick and choose, it’s just terrible and goes after everyone.”