Ontario Strengthening Protections for Firefighters

In Provincial

Province expanding coverage for occupational cancer, heart injuries, and PTSD to help safeguard the health and safety of frontline heroes

The Ontario government will soon introduce legislation that, if passed, will ensure wildland firefighters and investigators have the same presumptive WSIB coverage for cancers, heart injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that municipal firefighters do. The province is also proposing to expand presumptive coverage to firefighters and fire investigators for skin cancer and lower the service time required for firefighters to receive compensation from 15 to 10 years, bringing Ontario to the lowest required duration of service in the country. With presumptive coverage, certain cancers, heart injuries, and PTSD diagnoses are presumed to be work-related, helping ensure quicker and easier access to WSIB benefits.

“In every corner of our province, firefighters, fire investigators, and volunteers put their lives on the line to keep our families and communities safe. These frontline heroes deserve a government that values their service and sacrifice – they have earned stronger, more expansive coverage,” said David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Our government is serving those who serve by expanding cancer coverage and ensuring wildland firefighters have the same health coverages that municipal firefighters do. This builds on the progress we’ve made in our previous Working for Workers legislation, and we will continue to work with the firefighting community as part of our long-term plan to safeguard the health and safety of our frontline heroes.”

The government is proposing changes to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), which would reduce the duration of employment requirement for entitlement to presumptive coverage for primary-site skin cancer from 15 years to 10, making it faster and easier for firefighters to access benefits. Growing scientific evidence shows that firefighters, including wildland firefighters, are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer because of their exposure to carcinogens and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in fireground dust.

The new proposals build on the government’s progress from four previous Working for Workers acts. In June 2023, Ontario expanded presumptive occupational cancer coverage for firefighters and fire investigators to include primary site thyroid and pancreatic cancers, making it faster and easier for them to access WSIB compensation and services. Working for Workers Four Act, 2024 lowered the required employment period for primary-site esophageal cancer from 25 to 15 years, as well as “super indexing” WSIB benefits above the annual rate of inflation so sick heroes can focus on their health – not struggling with the cost of living.

These changes are part of a larger package that will expand on the ground-breaking actions introduced in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021, 2022, 2023, which will be unveiled in the coming weeks to protect workers, help them earn bigger paycheques, and help newcomers contribute to building Ontario. By continuing to put workers first, the province is building a brighter future for all Ontarians and ensuring our province remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Quick Facts

  • Approximately five million workers and 325,000 employers are covered by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
  • Over 1,000 people worked as wildland fire and wildland fire investigators during the 2023 wildland fire season.
  • There were 741 Ontario wildland fires during the 2023 season that burned 440,000 hectares.
  • In March 2024, Ontario announced an investment of over $5 million to attract, retain and recognize wildland firefighting staff.
  • Historically the scientific community had not identified a causal link between forest firefighting and occupational cancers, until a ground-breaking July 2022 publication by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which established that wildland firefighting is carcinogenic.
Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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