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What if your job is a major health risk?

It is one thing to have your health suffer as I have, at the hands of faceless bureaucrats. It is quite another to face the possibility of being made ill by your professional life.

Today, laying in bed feeling nauseous and with my teeth nagging at me yet again, I was reading. One way to reduce the impact of “unwellness” is to try to focus on other things. The news is always a good place to start!

I came across a situation I was unaware of and I stand with Andrew Wood all the way on this one.

Firefighters everywhere come in contact with chemicals and other materials that pose serious health risks. Materials than can be harmless in normal conditions can emit toxic fumes when on fire. In most states in Australia there is legislation that recognises firefighters have a greater chance of developing cancer due to this exposure and they may not be able to pinpoint the date, time and hazardous material they were exposed to, due to the nature of their job. Victoria does not have such legislation so making a Work Cover claim can be difficult.

“Victorian firefighters are unable to access WorkCover for cancer because they are told to prove which chemicals, at which incident, on which date,” Mr Marshall said.

State Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips’ spokeswoman, Justine Sywak, said it was important career and volunteer firefighters knew they could make compensation claims for any injury or illness they suffered while firefighting, including cancer.

The above quotes, read together, confuse me. I suspect both may be correct. Is the reality that while firefighters know they CAN make claims as stated by Ms Sywak, the burden of proof is so high given the firefighters’ work, many claims are not approved?

Firefighters face considerable danger every time they protect us, the community. Often they may not even be aware of some of the nasties to which they are exposed. Yes, they have protective gear, but is it 100% effective 100% of the time? Can we guarantee that? I doubt it.

“After the explosion when I was in hospital, I thought ‘gee, I just inhaled a lot of liquid petroleum gas, I wonder what that is doing to my body’,” Mr Wood told reporter Kylie Adoranti.

Kylie has highlighted an issue we should all strongly consider supporting. I remember the asbestos history: it was years before the connection was made to workers’ health. With firefighters there isn’t even a specific exposure that can be pinpointed and we know it can be years before problems surface, making causality impossible to determine.

I want to know firefighters are afforded appropriate financial and medical protection for putting their lives on the line for us. They deserve our support.


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