The Boston 25 News special "Boston's Bravest: Facing a Hidden Killer" is helping to make progress in the push for laws to protect local firefighters according to Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts leaders.
The hour-long special took an in-depth look at the shocking rates of occupational cancer among local firefighters.
“I think a lot of it wasn't known, not only to the lawmakers, but to the general public,” said PFFM President Rich MacKinnon.
The PFFM made sure every lawmaker at Monday's annual "Legislators Night" walked out the door with a copy of the special.
MacKinnon says the issue of occupational cancer is something every firefighter faces every day, and they want it to be a top priority for lawmakers too.
“We know the risk of the job, we know the risk of cancer and what we want is to be taken care of when we do get sick,” MacKinnon said.
He believes House Bill 2515 will do that. It allows firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer to go on "injured duty" status.
“Unfortunately, someone with a knee injury has more coverage than someone who has cancer,” MacKinnon told Boston 25 News.
Right now, in all but six communities in Massachusetts, firefighters use their own sick time and health insurance while they fight cancer,
Boston 25 News took the issue to Governor Charlie Baker.
“We are very interested in working with people to make sure that firefighters here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have access to the support and the help and the services that they need to get better,” Gov. Baker told Boston 25 News.
Baker said lawmakers need to be doing their part to help firefighters on a preventative basis, including having the right gear and making sure it's being properly cleaned.
“Are there things we can do as a Commonwealth, not just to make sure we're dealing with the illness should it occur for these folks, but are there things we could be doing to make sure they don't get sick in the first place,” Baker said.
MacKinnon tells Boston 25 News, the legislation has not faced opposition and will cost the state nothing.
HB 2515 passed several hurdles on Beacon Hill already, and the union is hopeful it will be passed before the current legislative session ends.
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