Kia ora koutou,
Presumptive legislation that recognises firefighters
We recently met with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to talk about presumptive legislation that has been proposed to look at how people can access ACC compensation for illnesses such as cancer where they are work related. This has been on our radar for a while, along with the NZPFU, and MBIE, with ACC, has been doing quite a bit of work in this area, looking into the science behind the links between illness and consider a range of options to put to Ministers for consideration.
They are considering how employed staff and volunteers from Fire and Emergency can access this if they have been exposed to carcinogens. Its important volunteers can have access, especially given volunteers make up 85% of the fire and emergency’s frontline.
So the thinking is being done and proposals for change are being considered before legislation can be drafted. In addition, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is working with the ACC and medical profession to increase awareness and gear up the medical profession to better recognise the potential links between firefighting for all types of operational personnel and illnesses like cancer. Ideally, the pathway for firefighters to apply for access to compensation will be easier as a result of the suggested changes. We are aware though that changes like this can become political in a Government arena and so we’ll be keeping closely involved as this work develops. We are also advocating that the definition of firefighter is for all personnel who have been exposed to carcinogens.
In addition, we continue to participate in Fire and Emergency New Zealand driven projects that look at reducing carcinogens for all personnel. Having said that it’s possible that not all personnel are getting the same support from FENZ across the country to reduce their exposure and risk to work related illness. We are keen to see as much support provided to Brigades and their personnel across the country as possible to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all personnel. This includes wellbeing and psychological wellbeing.
On Monday 30 September the UFBA lead a meeting with Associated Agencies (incl. the welfare society, Rural Professional Association, the PSA, NZPFU and Fire and Emergency New Zealand health and safety staff).
In this meeting we agreed that “there is a crisis of psychological wellbeing and we are a long way from completely recognising or understanding it – and there isn’t yet a cohesive plan on how to address it.”
This is a great opportunity for Associated Agencies (including Fire and Emergency New Zealand) to work together to develop robust solutions, provide a collective and powerful strategic voice to this important topic and ensure follow-through to implementation as an ongoing commitment to all personnel. Together we will seek and encourage Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s support in their shared implementation. We will continue to lead these meetings and have commitment from members to take recommendations forward (incl. from the “Why We 360” report).
We want to encourage our members to speak up about their concerns relating to psychological wellbeing and through us we can advocate to Fire and Emergency New Zealand about what needs to change.
Mental wellness is a complex topic, everyone has different thresholds and limits to the stresses they are exposed to in life and so no one size fits all.
The UFBA and FRFANZ are committed to standing by our members to ensure they get what they need. Not everyone knows what they need and some become desensitised overtime, so being open to support and help is important.
Our next Associated Agencies meeting is 18 October and we’ll give you an update on our progress as a result.
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