Greitens endorses legislation to make it easier for fire fighters to get workers’ comp after a cancer diagnosis

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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens doesn’t have much of a record when it comes to supporting workers.

He campaigned on making Missouri a so-called “right-to-work (for less)” state and eagerly signed legislation to do just that earlier this year.

He let preemption legislation take effect without his signature rolling back a minimum wage increase in St. Louis and blocking a similar voter-approved increase for low-wage workers in Kansas City.

But last week, in a rare show of support for working people, Greitens visited the St. Louis Fire Academy to announce his support for legislation that would make it easier for firefighters to access certain benefits through workers’ compensation after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

He was joined International Association of Firefighters General President Harold Schaitberger, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and numerous fire fighters.

Under the current law, fire fighters diagnosed with cancer must prove it was their work that caused the cancer.

A bill pre-filed by Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) would shift the burden of proof to the employer.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House and Senate during the last session, but Greitens didn’t back it and neither won approval.

FIRE FIGHTER CANCER RATES

Fire fighters face numerous dangers when fighting fires, Schaitberger said.

“Missouri lawmakers have a historic opportunity to protect firefighters from deadly hidden dangers, just as firefighters protect the public every day,” he said of the legislation.

A 2010 to 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of nearly 30,000 fire fighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco Fire Departments found the fire fighters studied showed higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population.

Based on U.S. cancer rates:

  • Fire fighters in the study had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths.
  • These were mostly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.
  • There were about twice as many fire fighters with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • There were more cases of certain cancers among younger fire fighters. For example, fire fighters in the study who were under 65 had more bladder and prostate cancers than expected.

When comparing fire fighters in the study to each other:

  • The chance of lung cancer diagnosis or death increased with amount of time spent at fires.
  • The chance of leukemia death increased with the number of fire runs.

The legislation is HB 1647.

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