Addressing important health needs of firefighters – cancers and psychological trauma

  Posted on 24th May 2019 by Nick Cottrell in UFBA blog, UFBA News

Kia ora,

As indicated in previous UFBA news updates, your Association has been working with NZPFU on the matter of ACC law recognising “firefighter cancers” and the bid for presumptive legislation. This campaign is being led by NZPFU Secretary Wattie Watson. We understand Wattie was involved in a similar successful campaign with the Victorian Firefighters and Unions prior to returning to her current role in NZ.

We note with appreciation NZPFU’s collegial willingness to share all information with us in the lead up to the current campaign. UFBA management agreed with the NZPFU position that they should rightly take the lead in this campaign because all of the research and evidence supporting their case is centred on career firefighter statistical experience in North America and Australia.

UFBA/FRFANZ met Minister Martin yesterday on a number of important matters. Some of which we are jointly agreed and committed to with NZPFU. In addition to firefighter cancers, improved emphasis on psychological wellbeing support is another topic UFBA/FRFANZ/NZPFU are lobbying for with FENZ and the Minister. I believe our briefing on the topics landed well with her. In addition to direct support for firefighters she supports the idea that families of firefighters should also be trained to recognise signs of psychological trauma and assist in the process of support and recovery.  Psychological trauma is an area that affects all firefighters and their families. It is worth noting that volunteer firefighters attend between 60-68% of all medical assist calls and motor vehicle incidents that FENZ responds to each year. Such incidents have potential to cause psychological harm to first responders.

Minister Martin supports the recognition of firefighter cancers and holds the firm conviction that whatever applies to NZPFU members applies to all firefighters in NZ.

In the meantime we are working to address the provisions of ACC in relation to FENZ Volunteers. For career staff, ACC recognises their status as employees and recognised work related diseases, illness etc. would be covered. If the “firefighter cancers” are recognised in NZ by ACC,  the process for claims should be straight forward.

Not so easy for volunteers, because our work with FENZ is regarded by ACC as “leisure activity”. You will be aware that when volunteers are injured in the course of the work they are doing with FENZ the event is classified as a “non work accident”. Personnel will only be compensated at 80% of their wage/salary.

The UFBA administers the ACC top up scheme on behalf of FENZ to ensure volunteers injured on FENZ duty receive 100% compensation.

Nga mihi


Bill Butzbach, UFBA CEO

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