Firefighter Presumption Coverage Advisory Committee
By Washington State House Bill 1913, certain medical conditions are presumed to be occupationally related when diagnosed among career firefighters. Presumption laws, such as these, are enacted to make it easier for workers to receive workers’ compensation benefits for specific conditions. The first occupational disease presumption law for firefighters in Washington was passed in 1987, and has been expanded on four different occasions, most recently in 2019. The list of presumptive conditions now includes various types of cancers, heart and respiratory diseases, certain infectious diseases, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for career firefighters. Presumption coverage for a subset of these conditions also applies to law enforcement officers.
House Bill 1913 also mandates that an advisory committee be established to review scientific evidence and make recommendations on future additions to this presumptive coverage. The committee will consist of five voting members—two epidemiologists, two preventive medicine physicians, and one industrial hygienist—and will be chaired by SHARP’s Research Director. SHARP will also provide epidemiology and project support for this work.
Firefighter Injury and Illness Reduction Initiative (FIIRE)
In 2019, the State Legislature approved Senate Bill 5175. This bill established the Firefighter Injury and Illness Reduction (FIIRE) initiative to promote best practices and improve firefighter safety and health. The SHARP program at L&I is working with L&I leadership, representatives from the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF), Washington Fire Chiefs, and additional subject-matter experts to establish best practices. SB 5175 mandates best practices be established in the following areas:
- Establishing a proactive health and safety risk management system;
- Reducing firefighter risk to exposure to carcinogens;
- Preventing or reducing the risk of injuries and illness, with a particular focus on cases of compensable workers’ compensation claims. The majority of time-loss workers’ compensation claims among firefighters are work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), and will be a focus.
Once established, the best practices are expected to undergo updates and refinements as appropriate.
LaSee C, Marcum J, Bonauto D (2021). Workers’ compensation claims for conditions presumed to be occupational diseases among firefighters in Washington State, 2000–2017, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, SHARP Technical Report
Bonauto D, Silverstein B (2007). Review of the Epidemiologic Studies for the Association between Firefighters and Selected Cancers; Multiple Myeloma, Stomach, Prostate, Testicular, Intestinal - Colon and Rectal Cancers, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, SHARP Technical Report