Firefighters face a constant threat of injury and death, but new protections are in place that could improve their physical and mental health. New legislation that went into effect on July 1 provides better care for cancers and mental health issues that can arise over the course of a firefighter’s career.
The Risks of the Job
Firefighters and other first responders routinely place themselves in the path of danger to keep others safe. They regularly expose themselves to toxic carcinogens and other substances that can cause neurological damage, chemical burns, and other injuries. Many of these injuries do not manifest themselves immediately. Many take years and even decades before they are known.
Similarly, the constant stresses and pressures of the job are significant. Attending to injured fire victims, recovering remains from automobiles and homes, and other traumatic experiences create considerable mental stresses. These can affect the firefighter’s personal and professional life. In regard to both physical and mental health, these conditions can be managed and their impact mitigated with prompt, appropriate care and treatment.
AB 492 and SB 215
AB 492 went into effect on June 3 while SB 215 went into effect on July 1. SB 215 provides better protections for individuals who suffer from occupational diseases such as cancer. AB 492 provides greater access to resources for firefighters and other public sector employees who wish to file stress-related claims such as those for post-traumatic stress disorder.
These changes were critical as it is estimated that approximately 20% of firefighters will suffer from PTSD at some point in their career. Further, it is estimated that up to 61% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths are attributed to cancer. Combined, these new laws enhancing workplace protections for first responders are a benefit the public owes to those who protect the communities in Nevada.
Enhanced Protections Improve Public Safety
These new laws benefit the public as much as they do first responders. Improving access to care and the ability to receive compensation to cover treatment will improve the overall health of area fire departments. In turn, this will increase retention and ensure that the area is protected by highly qualified, well-trained firefighters who are in good physical health and are mentally prepared to protect the public when called upon.