FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Connecticut State House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would expand wage replacement benefits for current and former firefighters battling cancer believed to have been contracted through the job, according to state Rep. Stephen Harding.
Harding, a Republican who represents Brookfield, Bethel, Danbury, was a co-sponsor of the bill.
“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are at a pronounced risk for developing cancers of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems; or, even more likely: mesothelioma,” Harding said. “These brave men and women already risk their lives by running into burning buildings, and their risk is even further elevated due to the long-term health complications related to their service."
According to Harding, the bill (H.B. 5262) would, if passed, create a new firefighters cancer relief account run by Connecticut State Firefighters Association. The account would be funded by a small portion of the e911 phone bill fees already being charged, Harding said.
Under the rules of the bill, volunteer firefighters, fire marshals, investigators and inspectors who have been working in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for at least five years and have been tobacco free for 15 years would be available for two years of benefits if their medical records indicate the cancer is specifically job-related, according to Harding.
Fire officials who leave the service and continue annual physicals will remain eligible for the aid for up to five years.
Harding said the bill will be sent to the Senate for further action. The legislative session adjourns at midnight on May 4.