Labor and Public Employees Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING WORKERS' COMPENSATION COVERAGE FOR CURRENT AND FORMER UNIFORMED MEMBERS OF PAID OR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Labor and Public Employees Committee
Rep. Joseph P. Gresko, 121st Dist.
Sen. Danté Bartolomeo, 13th Dist.
Rep. Michelle L. Cook, 65th Dist.
Rep. Mary G. Fritz, 90th Dist.
Rep. Stephen D. Dargan, 115th Dist.
Rep. James Albis, 99th Dist.
Rep. Gregory Haddad, 54th Dist.
Rep. John K. Hampton, 16th Dist.
REASONS FOR BILL:
To provide workers' compensation for current and former uniformed members of paid or volunteer fire departments who suffer from certain diseases as a result of performing their jobs.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Representative Michelle Cook, 65th Assembly District: Supports this bill but not in its current form. House and Senate Republicans, Connecticut Council of Small Towns, Workers' Compensation, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), various private insurance companies, and other stakeholders have all been working together this session on the content of the bill that will benefit the firefighters while not putting too much of a burden on our municipalities. Science has proven specific linkages between carcinogenic chemicals and materials encountered during firefighting.
Representative Themis Klarides, House Minority Leader, 114th Assembly District: Supports this bill, as it would reverse the presumption that cancers developed from firefighting did not stem from being a firefighter and as such would be denied in any workers' compensation claim. She has a proposed a bill that has been incorporated into HB 5075 which offers an alternative solution which would require the state to establish a firefighter's cancer benefit program.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Andrew Matthews, Esq, President, Connecticut State Police Union: Firefighters and State Troopers, particularly in the Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit, have been facing various forms of cancer arising out of their employment. As these cancers are caused by exposure to heat, radiation, and toxins current law makes it difficult to establish the causal connection as work related. Therefore, it is often impossible to prove under the current workers' compensation system.
Louis Burch, Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Connecticut: There is a growing body of evidence that proves the linkage between exposure to toxic flame retardant materials present in many workplaces and homes. These materials offer no serious fire protection and are harmful to firefighters dispatched to quell fires.
Glenn Terlecki, President, Connecticut Police and Fire Union: In a 2010 study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) of over 30,000 firefighters from major cities across the country and found that firefighters are at a higher risk for respiratory, digestive and urinary system cancers compared to the general population. They study also found a direct link between firefighting and malignant mesothelioma.
Joyce Acebo~Raguskus, Chair of Diesel Cleanup, Environmental Concerns Coalition: Years of evidence supports that our courageous firefighter's, both men and women exposed to dangerous quality of air with burning materials, chemicals, plastics, toxic flame retardants (yet to be banned, serving no protection, and gases have serious health effects.)
Lori J. Pelletier, President, Connecticut AFL-CIO: Cancerous illnesses can't be tied to one specific fire, firefighters go without treatment or workers' compensation and die as a result. It often takes years for cancer or other illnesses to fully develop.
Marc A. Scrivener, Fire Chief & Past President, Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association: Cancer cannot be faked and that fire departments are doing their part to educate and constantly clean and maintain their gear to reduce risk of exposure.
Michael C. Fitts, Executive Director, Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health (ConnectiCOSH): Toxic carcinogens are everywhere in a modern fire due to the amount of electronics and toxic substances found in furniture, flooring, and basic home goods. Even with turnout gear, firefighters remain at risk simply due to the fact that it is impossible to control exposures in the volatile environment of a fire.
Richard Hart, Director of Legislative & Political Affairs, Connecticut State Firefighters Association: The key to reducing costs with cancer is prevention, early detection, prescreening and diagnostic testing, and prohibiting tobacco use. The argument that this bill will bankrupt cities and towns is completely false and unsubstantiated. Cancer in the fire service is real and supported by empirical studies proving the desperate need for cancer to be recognized and covered as a presumptive occupational injury in Connecticut and covered under workers' compensation.
Ted Scholl, Legislative Representative, Connecticut State Firefighters Association: We realize this bill is a work in progress and are willing to work further to bring this issue to fruition in order to provide the proper workers' compensation coverage for Connecticut's firefighters.
Daniel Huften, Retired Firefighter and Cancer Survivor: Six months after ending a 21 year career with the fire service, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. I am happy to announce that as of today, I am cancer free and in remission. The simple fact that there are several similar cancer organizations, with some fire departments even having their own cancer foundations, speaks volumes about the risk involved with firefighting.
Dan Volovski, UConn Fire Department, Windsor Volunteer Fire Department: Please support the volunteer and career firefighters throughout the state and pass House Bill 5262.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Betsy Gara, Executive Director, Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST): Opposes this bill noting the significant financial burden that would be placed on municipalities and their taxpayers by expanding workers' compensation coverage revenue is down and cost for town services is on the rise.
Reported by: Joshua F. Quintana