Government must stand up for firefighters: Murphy

NDP Workplace Health & Safety critic George Murphy

Last week the provincial government made much ado about investing in firefighting equipment in central Newfoundland. NDP MHA George Murphy (St. John’s East) says while this funding is important, he wonders where the support is for the firefighters themselves.

Almost two years after a statutory review committee made 42 critical recommendations regarding Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation, the government has been alarmingly inactive on this front.

In particular, Murphy is concerned about the recommendation that a presumptive clause be added to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, entitling firefighters to benefits and compensation for primary site cancers directly associated with firefighting.

“It is shameful that the government has not followed through on this recommendation to protect the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect ours,” Murphy said. “Their health is not only threatened on the job-site, but by an elevated risk of developing several types of cancer.”

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of only three provinces yet to enact a presumptive clause for firefighters, a fact Murphy calls “embarrassing.” “We don’t want to win this race to the bottom,” he said.

Murphy noted that the committee’s recommendations are not extreme. For example, the clause would presume workplace disease in the case of primary site leukemia after five years of service, and for primary site oesophageal cancer after 25 years of service. Furthermore, it would only cover career (paid) firefighters. Ontario’s presumptive clause covers all firefighters, including part-time and volunteer.

“The fact is, firefighters put their lives on the line for the good of the public – the least we can do is protect their income so they are not saddled with any additional stress at an already challenging time,” Murphy contends. “Implementing this clause is, to put it simply, the right thing to do.”

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