UFBA asked MBIE to include specific firefighting cancers and diseases – for ALL firefighters

Issue date:

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) opened for submissions to add or change the list of occupational diseases covered by ACC.

Previously we asked members to contribute to this submission, and we thank those members who were willing to share their stories and experiences with us. This input was collated along with various international and national research papers all of which allowed us to shape a strong, evidence-based and inclusive submission.

The consultation period closed on Wednesday last week, and we are pleased to advise that our submission has been sent with 38 specific diseases associated with firefighting, backed by undeniable evidence.

Below are the key points from our submission of occupational diseases that should be added to cover our firefighters:

  • Diseases caused by fluorine, asphyxiants, oxides of nitrogen, mineral acids, corneal irritants, ammonia, pesticides, extreme temperatures, chlorine – and many more.
  • Hepatitis associated with fire, rescue and medical activities
  • Cancers associated with firefighting – eg. prostate, lung, myeloid leukemia, esophagus, kidney, bladder, colon, testicular, thyroid and more.
  • Heart disease and stroke associated with firefighting
  • Asthma and contact dermatitis from exposure to sensitising agents
  • Musculoskeletal disorders common for firefighting – eg. Shoulders, hips, back and knee conditions

In addition to listing the firefighting-related occupational diseases and referencing the supporting evidence, we included a further discussion document that highlights how Aotearoa New Zealand’s firefighters, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer, are exposed to the same incidents, risks, trauma and gradual workplace injury or illness.

Therefore our volunteer firefighters, along with their paid colleagues, must be recognised as a unique group of employment under ACC legislation.

All firefighters must be acknowledged for the specialised work they do for our communities and laws must be changed to allow for presumptive legislation – so that no paid or volunteer firefighter needs to prove a single incident of cause, including mental health.

We have made this inequitable treatment of volunteers very clear to MBIE and also, through our relationship with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Barbara Edmonds, we have given her a full brief of what needs to change to better support our members, Aotearoa New Zealand’s firefighters.