New firefighter cancer legislation

Wednesday 21 June 2017
Deidre Petrakis

The Victorian Government has finally introduced the presumptive right to workers’ compensation for firefighters suffering from fire-related cancer.

Existing scientific and medical evidence supports a link between firefighting and certain types of cancer such as brain, prostrate, testicular, breast, kidney, bladder, leukaemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ureter, colorectal and oesophageal cancers.

Until recently, any firefighter diagnosed with cancer as a result of smoke or chemical exposure who sought workers’ compensation had to prove their disease was caused by exposure to hazardous substances in the course of their employment. An expert panel was ultimately responsible for assessing firefighters’ cancer claims.

The introduction of this new legislation creates a legal presumption that if a firefighter is diagnosed with a particular type of cancer then it can be assumed that the cancer resulted from their employment as a firefighter.

From 1 June 2016 the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017 will provide automatic workers’ compensation to firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer and have served for the relevant number of years (depending on the type of cancer).

The legislation recognises the invaluable service provided by firefighters, which often requires them to work in inherently dangerous situations. The new scheme will apply to career and volunteer firefighters and will be administered through WorkSafe.

Fortunately, there will be no requirement that firefighters have attended a specific number of fires or other exposure events in order to be covered by the scheme. The Government will also create a dedicated assistance fund to support any firefighters with cancer who don’t meet the criteria of the scheme.

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with cancer associated with firefighting, contact our office on (03) 9321 9988 for advice about eligibility to compensation under this new legislation.

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