House Democratic lawmakers today heralded the passage of Senate Bill 27, legislation to ensure firefighters disabled by cancer as a result of their hazardous line of work are eligible for benefits from the workers’ compensation fund and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.
“The first responders who keep us safe shouldn’t face medical uncertainty or financial instability after years of selfless sacrifice,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma). “That’s why this reform ensures our everyday heroes don’t have to go it alone.”
Research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that firefighters show higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population as a result of occupational exposure. The study also found that the chance of a lunch cancer diagnosis or death for a firefighter increases with the amount of time spent at fires, while the chance of leukemia death increases with the number of fire runs.
“How many of us would be brave enough to run into a fire instead of away from it? Firefighters risk their safety every day in order to protect their neighbors and their community, so it is only right that we have their back in times of medical need,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “This legislation is a long overdue reform that will assist the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day.”
Current Ohio law does not presume that firefighters who are disabled by cancer are presumed to have incurred the cancer from performing official duties as a firefighter. As a result, many active and retired firefighters are prohibited from receiving certain benefits and compensation for performing official duties, and are left to deal with their illness alone.
SB 27 will provide coverage for any firefighter disabled by cancer – full-time or volunteer – who has worked for at least six years on hazardous duty, unless the employer can demonstrate otherwise.
“Firefighters go to work every day knowing there’s a possibility that they could be in an accident that could change their life and affect their families forever. However, firefighters must also grapple with the heightened risk of developing cancer on top of their already dangerous work conditions,” said Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Warren). “This legislation is the least that we can do for these courageous men and women who sacrifice their life and good health for the safety and wellbeing of us all.”
Once SB 27 is signed into law, Ohio will join 36 other states that already have presumptive cancer laws.