YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A bill that could help firefighters who got cancer as a presumed result of their job is heading to Governor John Kasich’s office.
The bill has made its way through the legislature before, but failed. This time around, it passed in the House and Senate.
The measure addresses how causes of cancer are viewed when it comes to getting benefits through worker’s compensation — and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.
Under Senate Bill 27, firefighters across Ohio will be insured medical compensation if or when they become disabled by a certain cancer as a result of their hazardous line of work.
“Now, any types of treatments, doctor visits or any subsequent surgeries will be covered under workers comp claims,” said Mike O’Brien, representative of District 64.
“The other side still has an opportunity to why they believe it did not come from that work duty,” said Joe Schiavoni, District 33 senator. “But it simply changes the presumption.”
That could help firefighters access more benefits.
“One, the firefighters must be a firefighter for over six years and 20 years after his retirement,” O’Brien said.
“It’s really important to take care of the people that take care of the public,” said Tony Ciccone, union president of Youngstown Professional Firefighters. “And that’s us.”
A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that about 68 percent of firefighters get cancer, compared to 22 percent of the general public, regardless of race or gender.
“There’s a toxic soup environment of carcinogens — the new plastics burning and all the smoke,” Ciccone said. “Everything we inhale, our gear acts like a wick, absorbs that material and it goes into our skin.”
Some lawmakers worry about the strain it would cause on municipalities.
“That is something that’s concerning,” Schiavoni said. “But when you really look at the numbers, there’s not that many cases like this and the firefighters absolutely deserve to be covered.”
According to local lawmakers, until this bill was passed, Ohio was one of just 16 states that failed to recognize the link between fighting fires and cancer.
Gov. Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law within the next two weeks.
We’ll continue to follow this story and bring you the latest once that happens.