New OH Program to Protect Firefighters’ Health

OH – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is more than doubling its funding for a new grant program aimed at protecting firefighters from carcinogens and other toxins that cause long-term health ailments.

Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison said her agency had originally allotted $2 million this year for its Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program, but as of Feb. 28, BWC had received 444 grant applications seeking nearly $4.7 million in funding.

The grant program is one of several health and safety components to BWC’s Third Billion Back rebate to Ohio employers last year. Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The study included nearly 30,000 career firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco who were employed at any time between 1950 and 2009. NIOSH researchers found that, when compared to the number of cancers expected using U.S. population rates, the firefighters in this study had a modest increase in cancer diagnoses (9% increase) and cancer-related deaths (14% increase).

BWC’s grant program will continue for a second year, beginning July 1 with a funding level of $2 million.