Firefighter occupational disease coverage

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WCB policy provides conditions for the presumption of an occupational disease in firefighters, specifically for firefighter cancer and cardiac injury.

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If you are, or have been, a firefighter and have been diagnosed with cancer, the cancer may be presumed to be an occupational disease and you may be eligible for benefits from the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB).

Presumptions apply to all firefighters

The disease will be presumed to be an occupational disease predominantly caused by the firefighter’s service or employment if the full-time, part-time or volunteer firefighter:

  • Suffers from a disease listed below.
  • Is currently serving or is employed with, or has served or has been employed with, a fire department for a specified minimum period.
  • Is or has been exposed to the hazards of a fire scene, other than a forest fire, during their service or employment as a firefighter.

Firefighter presumptive coverage expanded

Firefighter presumptive coverage of occupational diseases was expanded in 2019 to include the following occupational diseases:

  • primary-site prostate cancer
  • primary-site skin cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • primary-site breast cancer
  • primary-site cervical cancer
  • primary-site ovarian cancer

The added cancers recognize the changing demographics among firefighters and the fact that half of the additional cancers affect females. The prescribed cancers are occupational diseases presumed to have occurred because of the nature of the worker’s service or employment as a firefighter, unless it is established that the service or employment was not a significant contributing factor to the occurrence of the cancer.

The following diseases are also presumed to be an occupational disease and compensable, unless the contrary is proven:

  • brain cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • leukemia
  • ureter cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • lung cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • an injury to the heart that manifests within 24 hours after attendance at an emergency response scene

Volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters have access to the same presumptive coverage as full-time urban firefighters. The presumptions also apply to part-time firefighters of an urban municipality. These presumptions apply to firefighters who are, or have been, exposed to the hazards of a fire scene, other than a forest fire.

Previously denied claims

The WCB has reviewed previously denied claims to determine if they would be an acceptable work injury under the new legislation. The new presumptions apply to previously submitted claims and to any new claims with injury dates prior to the legislative amendments.

Firefighters with WCB claims can request a re-evaluation of a previous decision. The request will be considered by the WCB team responsible for the most recent decision.

As with all reported injuries and diseases, WCB staff will obtain all relevant information to determine if the injury or disease arose out of, and in the course of, employment. Staff will determine entitlement based on the information. If a claim for a listed presumptive cancer does not meet the minimum period of service or employment (noted below), WCB policy and procedure will apply and a claim may be accepted if the gathered medical information confirms a causal relationship between the listed presumptive cancer and the workplace.

Minimum period of service or employment

Section 22.3 of The Workers’ Compensation General Regulations, 1985 (the General Regulations) provides the minimum period of employment required before a firefighter may be presumed to have an occupational disease. The WCB will consider the minimum period of service for volunteer firefighters.

The “cumulative” period of service for volunteer firefighters or period of employment for full-time and part-time firefighters will be considered. This includes all of an individual’s history as a firefighter whether their periods of service or employment were consecutive or not.

The minimum period of service or employment between first exposure and diagnosis of the primary-site cancer is:

Years of service

Cancer

  5

leukemia

10

brain, primary-site breast, primary-site cervical, primary-site ovarian, testicular

15

bladder, colorectal, lung (non-smoking firefighters), multiple myeloma, primary-site prostate, primary-site skin, ureter

20

kidney, primary non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

25

esophageal

Frequently asked questions

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A: Section 22.3 of the WCB’s General Regulations provides the minimum periods of employment required (between exposure and diagnosis) before a firefighter may be presumed to have an occupational disease. The minimum interval of uninterrupted employment between first exposure and diagnosis of the primary-site cancer is listed in the above table. 

In the case of primary-site lung cancer, a firefighter with a history of smoking will be excluded from the presumption unless the firefighter was a non-smoker prior to the date of the injury for the minimum period listed in the General Regulations.

This information is clarified in the WCB’s Policy and Procedure Manual.

Factors considered in respect to a cardiac injury

If a firefighter suffers a cardiac injury within 24 hours of attendance at an emergency response scene, the injury is presumed to be an occupational disease unless the contrary is shown. No minimum period of employment is required.

Firefighter’s history of smoking in respect to lung cancer

For primary-site lung cancer to be presumed to be an occupational disease, the firefighter must have been a non-smoker for a minimum period before the diagnosis.

Average consumption

Period of non-smoking

Fewer than 7 cigarettes a week

6 years

1 to 9 cigarettes a day

6 years

10 to 19 cigarettes a day

13 years

20 cigarettes a day

18 years

21 to 39 cigarettes a day

23 years

40 or more cigarettes a day

28 years

1 or more cigars and/or pipes a day

8 years

If the minimum non-smoking period has not been met, the presumptions will not apply and the disease will be considered under the WCB’s Policy and Procedure Manual.

There will be no minimum period of non-smoking if a firefighter has smoked in their lifetime:

    • fewer than 365 cigarettes, cigars and/or pipes
    • fewer than seven cigars or pipes a week, on average

If a firefighter smoked cigarettes in combination with cigars and/or pipes, the minimum period will be determined in accordance with the above table. One cigar or pipe will be considered as one cigarette. 

Where smoking is a factor in an accepted work-related lung cancer claim, cost relief may be provided to the employer under WCB policy.

For more information, see our:

A: Section 22.3 of the WCB’s General Regulations provides the minimum periods of employment required (between exposure and diagnosis) before a firefighter may be presumed to have an occupational disease. The minimum interval of uninterrupted employment between first exposure and diagnosis of the primary-site cancer is listed in the above table.

A: Saskatchewan’s volunteer firefighters have access to the same presumptive coverage as their professional counterparts. The presumption does not apply to forest firefighters.

A: If a claim for a listed presumptive cancer does not meet the minimum interval of uninterrupted employment (see above), it will be reviewed on its own merit and justice. A claim may be accepted if the gathered medical information confirms a causal relationship between the listed presumptive cancer and the workplace.

A: If a firefighter previously submitted a claim for one of the cancers and was denied under former legislation, they can request a reconsideration of the original decision. Their claim will be considered by the WCB department responsible for the most recent decision.