COLUMBUS (WCMH) — An amendment added to the Bureau of Workers Compensation budget bill this week would add a wrinkle to a new state law allowing firefighters to file workers comp claims for cancer.
The amendment, proposed by Cincinnati Republican Rep. Tom Brinkman, would allow an employer to challenge a firefighter’s claim if there is evidence the firefighter failed to use or improperly used protective equipment.
Brinkman tells NBC4 the amendment provides a measure of accountability for all the money taxpayers spend on safety equipment for firefighters.
Dave Bernzsweig, Director of Health, Safety and EMS for the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters, says the proposed amendment is misdirected. “We absolutely should be wearing our protective clothing equipment…but we’re still going to get exposed,” Bernzweig said. “The way it’s written – it’s victim blaming. We have a dirty job. We’re not going to make firefighting a clean job and we’re exposed to a lot of chemicals and carcinogens.”
Mark Rine, a Columbus firefighter with Stage 4 Melanoma, is still working. He lobbied for state law and is disappointed by the proposed amendment. “We have people who are not firefighters who are now suspecting us or saying that we are causing this when all the studies show that it’s not us – it’s the environment in which we serve.”
Rep. Brinkman says taxpayers are being asked to provide more and more safety equipment for firefighters and his amendment would add a measure of accountability. Brinkman says he expects the budget bill with the amendment will pass out of committee next week.