Workers Comp Broadens For Emergency Responders

Published 06/27 2013 08:32AM

Updated 06/27 2013 08:34AM

As Burlington firefighters converged upon an apartment on King Street they were about to face the kind of danger that makes their jobs as perilous as any: a carbon monoxide leak.

"We have all the equipment in the world whether it's our gear or air packs but those hazards are still there after the fact," Burlington Fire Department Lt and President of Professional Firefighters of Vermont Ben O'Brien said.

In the past if a first responder became sick on job they had to prove it to the insurance company.

"It's an uphill fight," O'Brien said.

But now, thanks to a new Vermont law, the burden of proof has shifted. It's up to the insurance company to prove the job is not at fault.

"It's helping our families in the long run of not going through these trials and tribulations of claims," O'Brien said.

It's not just firefighters but EMTs and other emergency responders who will benefit from this law once it goes into effect July 1.

O'Brien says this makes Vermont the 27th state to offer protection over the big four dangers for emergency responders: heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness and infectious diseases.

O'Brien says he's seen those kinds of cases right here in Burlington.

"Their cases dragged out over years and years and years because they had to prove it was contracted as part of their job," O'Brien said.

That's something they won't need to worry about on the job anymore.

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