By Christopher Filanc-Gustafson
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to supported worker’s compensation for firefighters passed through the Senate Business and Labor Committee and is awaiting further action on the Senate floor.
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, who is sponsoring SB135, explained to the committee that firefighting is young man’s game and there is a small window for a career in it. Eligibility for retirement is at year twenty.
Still, knowing the dangers faced by firefighters on the job, it may come as a surprise that there are a lot of firefighters who have long careers and frequently experience significant health consequences due to their prolonged service. Despite those years of service, state often fail to provide protection for potential risks such as cancer, or diseases that are life threatening.
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, who serves on the Business and Labor Committee, knows first hand exactly what type of experiences these men and women go through. For twenty years, he was a firefighter and he recalls going into burning buildings without even the type of gear they have now. Okerlund supported a favorable recommendation for the bill.
Jack Tidrow, President of the Professional Firefighters of Utah and Fire Captain Fernando Rivero, spoke in support of the bill citing the need for worker’s compensation in the facing of daily exposure to danger. Potential risks, such as chemicals, can pass through their gear onto their bodies, and exposure could be prolonged.
Thirty-four other states and nine provinces have some type of coverage. Some states provide their firefighters with coverage for all types of cancer. The motion to recommend the bill passed unanimously.