The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 797 Tuesday, which amends the Workers' Compensation Act to include cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters who have served for at least four continuous years, Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/ Schuylkill) said today. The bill is a companion to a measure introduced by Sen. Dave Argall (R-29).

"As a former active volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years, I was pleased to vote for this bill," Knowles said. "Our firefighters sacrifice so much in service to our communities. It is only fitting that we provide this protection to them if they develop an illness as a result of that service."

Under the bill, firefighters who have served for four or more years in continuous firefighting duties who can establish a work-related exposure to a Group 1 carcinogen as identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer would be covered. The bill stipulates that occupational disease claims covered under this act can be filed by firefighters who have successfully passed a physical examination before asserting a claim, or before engaging in firefighting duties, which revealed no evidence of cancer.

"I am pleased we could bring local governments and firefighters together to develop this compromise," Knowles said. "The legislation we passed is acceptable to all of the parties involved and will ensure that firefighters are protected if they get sick as a result of their service."

House Bill 797 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.