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NSW laws to help protect firefighters


Written by:
Sarah Hunt
Associate

Firefighters face many risks in their daily duties. The long-term risks of exposure to carcinogens and chemicals in fighting fires has been well known for many years. Over the past decade, most states in Australia have introduced legislation to better protect and support the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep communities safe. Finally, the NSW Government has taken steps to do the same.

In September 2018, the NSW Government introduced legislation that allows eligible NSW firefighters to more easily access workers compensation benefits if they are diagnosed with one of 12 listed cancers associated with fighting fires.

What is the effect of the legislation?

The law has been changed to make it easier for eligible firefighters to make a workers compensation claim. It’s now presumed that if you have been diagnosed with any of the cancers listed in the Act, that the cancer is related to your employment, unless proven otherwise. In the past, a firefighter needed to show exactly which fire caused the onset of the disease, which was always very difficult. To be eligible, the worker must satisfy a qualifying period, which differs for each of the cancers, see the table below.

Who does it apply to?

It applies to career firefighters, as well as volunteer Rural Fire Service firefighters.

What does it cover?

The legislation covers a list of 12 prescribed cancers:

DiseaseQualifying service period
Primary site brain cancer5 years
Primary leukaemia5 years
Primary site breast cancer10 years
Primary site testicular cancer10 years
Primary site bladder cancer15 years
Primary site kidney cancer15 years
Primary non-Hodgkin lymphoma15 years
Multiple myeloma15 years
Primary site prostate cancer15 years
Primary site ureter cancer15 years
Primary site colorectal cancer15 years
Primary site oesophageal cancer25 years

What are the limits to the legislation?

The legislation applies from 27 September 2018. It does extend to cancers diagnosed before that date, but only if a claim had already been made and liability had been denied on the basis of the causal connection to employment. For many workers that were diagnosed or even died before this date, they will not get the benefit of the presumption as they had not previously made a claim.

Contact us

If you’re a NSW firefighter, either career or volunteer, and you have been diagnosed with one of the primary cancers since September 2018, then you should contact our workers compensations experts to discuss your entitlements.

If you were a firefighter diagnosed with one of the 12 prescribed cancers prior to 27 September 2018 and you had previously made a claim, then you may be able to bring a claim to have workers compensation benefits reinstated. This will also extend to the dependent relatives of firefighters who ultimately died as a result of their cancer diagnosis and may result in significant death benefits being payable to the remaining living relatives. Get in touch today, Shine Lawyers: let's right wrong.

Written by Sarah Hunt. Last modified: October 29, 2019.

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