HARRISBURG – Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) today announced that the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, of which he is chairman, unanimously reported legislation that would designate cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters.
“All of our Pennsylvania firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our communities, homes, businesses and lives,” said Barrar, who represents Chadds Ford, Birmingham and Pocopson in the Unionville area. “They deserve recompense if they develop cancer as a direct result of their firefighting duties.”
House Bill 797, authored by Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), would allow firefighters to receive workers’ compensation if they develop cancer and can establish direct exposure to certain carcinogens while responding to an incident. To be eligible for workers’ compensation, he or she would have to have participated in continuous firefighting duty for four or more years and have successfully passed a physical exam prior to asserting the claim or engaging in firefighting duties.
A similar measure was vetoed in 2010 by then Gov. Ed Rendell due to concerns raised by local governments. Barrar, Farry and other members of the committee reached out to local governments and advocacy groups to arrive at a compromise on the bill’s language, and many of the groups that previously opposed the bill have changed their stance.
“This is the right thing to do for Pennsylvania’s firefighters,” said Barrar. “I will continue to advocate for this legislation until it is finally signed into law because the service provided by our firefighters warrants this type of benefit.”
House Bill 797 will now go before the full House for consideration.