In a welcome move, the governor of Massachusetts signed a law that would designate cancer as a work-related injury for firefighters across the state. Under the new law, medical treatment costs for firefighters will be covered, along with the time they have missed because of their illness.

When a worker is injured on the job during the course of their employment, they become eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits that could cover medical costs and lost wages. However, the work-related injury or illness must be one that is covered by workers’ compensation coverage. If an illness is not covered, as cancer previously was not, then the worker would be forced to take personal or sick days for treatment, get run off the payroll and likely lose the job that would have caused the illness in the first place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firefighters were found to be nine percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14 percent more likely to die from it than the general population. As the governor noted, firefighters accept the risk then they take on the job, which is why not providing them with coverage is just wrong. The law would also include coverage for breast and reproductive cancers.

Workers accept the risk of their jobs, but employers must respect that and provide them with the necessary healthcare coverage and protections required for the particular type of work. Workers’ compensation exists to protect employees and an injured employee should know they could rely on their employers, for whom they possibly sacrificed their health. If injured employees get caught in the tussle between insurers and employers, they might want to consult an experienced attorney to discuss their options.