Lake Country firefighters up to date on new legislation

MLA Norm Letnick provides information on access to information on disease exposure

Lake Country first responders have expanded awareness about new rules related to disease exposure.

Emergency workers are now able to request access to information about potential disease exposure under provincial legislation.

“First responders put their lives on the line every day to keep the people of B.C. safe, so it’s important we support them in every way we can,” said Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA, who made a presentation to the Lake Country Fire Department today (Thursday).

He added that the legislation allows emergency services workers some peace of mind as far as the opportunity to know whether they were exposed to disease or not.

The passing of the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act has been applauded by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C.

“Firefighters, police, and ambulance paramedics are at significant risk to contracting a communicable disease due to exposures through their work,” said FCABC president Len Garis.

The act will allow emergency workers to request a court order to require individuals to give a bodily fluid sample, if one is not given voluntarily.

It also establishes a presumption of disease exposure for first responders seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

Between 1987 and 2011, WorkSafeBC accepted 227 claims for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV exposures – 47 of the claims were from first responders.

Similar legislation exists in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.