Compo win for firefighters
Dean Symmans. Picture: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

Dean Symmans was among firefighters who welcomed the Barnett Government's announcement yesterday that it would introduce a Bill to make it easier for firefighters to get worker's compensation if they contracted cancer on the job.

Mr Symmans, 50, Albany's fire and rescue station officer, believes he contracted a form of leukaemia while working as a firefighter three years ago.

But the father of two has not received any compensation for the nine months he spent off work because, under the current system, he has to pinpoint the specific incident which led to the illness.

"I can't prove which specific job it was but I think there's a lot of evidence that I was exposed to chemicals during jobs which were carcinogenic," Mr Symmans said.

Emergency Services Minister Troy Buswell will introduce legislation that will operate on the presumption that firefighters got the cancer at work.

United Firefighters Union of Australia WA secretary Kevin Jolly said international studies showed firefighters were diagnosed with cancer at much higher rates than the general public and this was linked to the smoke, toxins and carcinogens they were exposed to when fighting fires.

Mr Jolly said five of the union's members had died in the past two years and 30 were in remission.

Mr Buswell expected the Bill to be introduced after the March election and would also cover volunteer firefighters. Retired firefighters would get retrospective compensation.

Mr Buswell said though firefighters would theoretically be covered only if diagnosed after the legislation took effect - which would rule out Mr Symmans - he would liaise with the union to give people such as him a "comparable" and "adequate" level of protection.

Shadow emergency services minister Margaret Quirk said the laws would already be in effect if the Barnett Government had supported a similar Bill the Opposition introduced in February.

Mr Buswell said Labor's Bill did not provide protection for volunteer firefighters.

He also announced a $1 million assistance scheme for volunteer firefighters and said insurance inconsistencies for them would be addressed.

The West Australian

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