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Towns Voice Concerns Over Potential Change in Workers Comp Law for Firefighters

by | May 8, 2015 12:11pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Environment, Town News, Manchester, Wallingford, Health Care, Jobs, Labor, Public Safety, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo A group of mayors and town managers on Thursday visited the state Capitol to warn lawmakers of the fiscal implications of a bill that would change workers compensation law for firefighters.

The bill, currently on the House calendar, would “give paid municipal and volunteer firefighters a rebuttable presumption that numerous types of cancer, specified in the bill, are due to their work as firefighters.” The municipality would then be responsible for proving to the Workers’ Compensation Board that the cancer the firefighter contracted was not a result of their job.

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Deputy Director Ron Thomas said the bill would be a “huge unfunded mandate” for municipalities, adding that the state’s 26,000 firefighters already have the option to file workers’ compensation claims if they believe their illness is related to their job.

Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson pointed out that most, if not all, of these firefighters are offered health insurance and he reiterated that firefighters have the ability to file a workers’ compensation claims without this legislation.

He said in addition to the health benefits, if these firefighters succeed in a workers’ compensation award, then they also receive a salary.

“The economy is in chaos. The state can’t provide the money for this,” Dickinson said. “Where are we going to find the money?”

Municipal officials said a similar presumptive rebuttal regarding heart and hypertension for police and firefighters that was sunset in 1996 cost them $20 million a year.

But firefighters argue there’s a reason for the legislation, which has broad bipartisan support.

“The toxic atmosphere that we work in on a daily basis holds hidden poisons ready to attack our bodies, long after the fire is out,” Richard Hart, the legislative liaison for the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut, testified in February in favor of the legislation.

Hart argued that cancer in fire service is real. He said the science supports it.

Hart pointed to testimony offered by Francesca Litow, an adjunct associate professor at the John Hopkins University Bloomfield School of Public Health.

Litow testified in February that studies show firefighters are at a higher risk for cancer than the general population because of the toxic chemicals they are exposed to on the job.

Litow told lawmakers that studies of the chemicals contained within smoke that firefighters commonly encounter have clearly documented reason for concern about these exposures. She said smoke is a complex mixture of cancer-causing chemicals from combustion.

A 2006 analysis of data from 32 studies that screened firefighters for 20 different cancers found that risks for 10 types of cancer were significantly increased. The risks for the other 10 cancers they screened were increased, but not in a statistically significant way. Since that time, two other studies have been published that show firefighters have a statistically significant increase of incidence and death from six cancers. And, according to Litow, a study of 16,422 firefighters from five Nordic countries found that firefighters have an increased risk of all cancers combined compared to residents who were not firefighters.

But Manchester Town Manager Scott Shanley pointed out that certain genetic markers also have been tied to cancer.

“We just don’t know enough about cancer to make these kinds of determinations,” Shanley said.

He added that “there are so many unknowns on this. It’s a totally unpredictable piece of legislation.”

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(17) Archived Comments

posted by: NoNonsense | May 8, 2015  1:56pm

The name of Wallingford’s mayor is William Dickinson, not Dickerson. And his comments are spot-on.

posted by: johnnyb | May 8, 2015  8:20pm

There is no end for what the firefighters and cops want from the taxpayers. What happens when the rest of us get cancer, firefighters? Are the towns supposed to pay us our income? This nonsense needs to stop. You have top notch health care. You have top notch pensions . Buy life insurance like the rest of us and suck it up.

posted by: art vandelay | May 9, 2015  12:47am

art vandelay

I’m sorry but this is the profession you have chosen.  The risks are known before you accept the position and must be accepted.  It would be like a coal miner suing the company for contracting lung cancer.

posted by: Hebee | May 9, 2015  6:17am

It has been scientifically proved that breathing the air in the Capital building for more than one term causes the loss of 25 IQ points. Two or more term legislators exhibit a complete lack of common sense and an increased disconnect from reality. It is obviously a Worker’s Compensation claim waiting to be legislated.

posted by: art vandelay | May 9, 2015  8:23am

art vandelay

If you’re a Democrat legislator you owe your allegiance to the Unions, NOT your constituents.

posted by: NoNonsense | May 9, 2015  3:08pm

@ Hebee: Please post again and explain that you were being facetious. They might still be able to read, but the loss of 25 IQ points might make them think you were serious. Let’s not give them any ideas, OK?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 9, 2015  8:16pm

Y’all should publish your home addresses.  That way the firefighters can let your slum burn if it catches on fire.


posted by: SocialButterfly | May 10, 2015  12:21pm

@DrHunterS.Thompson: Your gross and inhumane comment vividly signifies that “you are not a medical doctor.”

posted by: NoNonsense | May 10, 2015  2:33pm

@DrHunterSThompson: So many of us think this “feel good” bill is outrageous, and that, in your opinion, justifies firefighters to refuse to perform their jobs? Who says drugs don’t make you stupid?

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 10, 2015  3:52pm

Yo! NoButterflies! That’s freaking SocialNonsense. The idea is benefits for all. Yes, even y’all. We will all be better off.

Get with the program, twist up a fatty and try not to git yer panties knotted up.


posted by: SocialButterfly | May 10, 2015  5:35pm

@HST: Please take a break from the strong tea you are apparently now drinking.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 10, 2015  8:03pm

Forget this particular unfunded mandate and lets talk unfunded mandates in general.

Unfunded state mandates are municipal budget killers.

A.  The municipalities don’t have the money.  They are as broke as the state.

B.  How can you expect a municipality to “budget” when an unfunded state mandate can come flying out of Hartford at any time.  And what if the mandate is retroactive.

So, what are the municipalities supposed to do?  Running to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and asking the CCM to get Hartford to back off is useless, cuz the CCM is useless.

The proper course of action for the municipalities is to NOT COMPLY with unfunded state mandates.  Every Mayor and First Selectman in the state needs to write a letter to the General Assembly and Governor and go on the record stating that they will not comply.

Sure, the state or the suddenly disenfranchised interested party may sue, but let them.  Tie it up in the courts.  Make unfunded mandates a big issue through a high visibility lawsuit.  Trust me, Malloy don’t want that publicity and THAT is called leverage.

There is safety in numbers and if enough municipalities call BS then you’d be surprised how fast that will modify Hartford’s behavior.

They way you get a bully to back down is to challenge them.  Find your sack and take a stand.  Learn how to say NO!  It is liberating.

posted by: NoNonsense | May 11, 2015  12:02pm

@ Biff Winnetka: Your idea of “will not comply” is a good one; but, unfortunately, most municipal elected officials do not have the backbone to do so. And it won’t work if only a small handful refuse to comply.

posted by: GBear423 | May 11, 2015  12:31pm


The Problem is Health care’s ridiculous price tag.

There is very little doubt that Firefighters deal with numerous poisons and carcinogens when going into a firefighting situation. We have a duty to make sure not only these brave servants are cared for, but their families as well in the event that firefighter can no longer earn and provide.

Some may say that they signed up for it, but if the guy survives up to 20 years of running into burning buildings and pulling out people and even rendering first responder medical care to those injured, don’t we as a society owe it to at least pick up the tab to let them live out their retirement in as good a health as can be??  I dunno, but a few sound pretty heartless here.

posted by: art vandelay | May 11, 2015  1:39pm

art vandelay

Yes I agree. If a firefighter or first responder is permanently disabled in the line of actual duty, he should be entitled to compensation.  It’s the abuse that I object to.  Abuses were numerous by firefighters when it came to heart & hypertension. It’s why it was terminated.

posted by: NoNonsense | May 11, 2015  7:55pm

@GBear423: I think you may be misunderstanding the comments here. We all support firefighters. They already have excellent health care and pensions. They ARE taken care of. This bill is about creating the presumption that, if they get virtually ANY kind of cancer, the job caused it. No proof required, it’s just assumed. And that would earn them workers’ compensation pay. There would be no way for a municipality to prove the negative, that is, that the job did not cause the cancer.

posted by: art vandelay | May 12, 2015  12:26am

art vandelay

This bill in essence is the reinstatement of the heart and hypertension law that was repealed a few years ago.  It’s just a back door approach.  People must remember that Unions relinquish NOTHING from what they gained.  Yes they might have a small setback once in a while, but sooner or later what they lost is ALWAYS reinstated.

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