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New criteria for deciding whether firefighters' cancer was caused on the job labelled a 'lucky dip'

The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union is calling ACC’s new assessment criteria for whether firefighters with work-related cancer claims are approved a “lucky dip.”

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Firefighters says hundreds have been diagnosed over the years, but many won’t be compensated under ACC’s new criteria. Source: 1 NEWS

“It is still a lucky dip for firefighters, with this panel, they still have to prove various factors, this is not presumptive legislation it does not protect firefighters generally,” union secretary Wattie Watson said.

The assessment tool for clinical experts covers existing research, personal attributes of the claimant and factors including the protective gear worn, how long the claimant has worked, the demographic of those who get the disease and exposure to exceptional hazards like a chemical explosion.

“The information that the tool provides us gives us the evidence to enable us to make more effective decisions and be consistent and be more timely,” said Mike Tully ACC chief operating officer.

Nine claims were approved yesterday, and two were declined, including that of bone cancer survivor and Papakura Station firefighter Michael Callander.

“ACC called yesterday and said the claim had been declined because I had not done enough time in the job for the claim to be accepted,” said Mr Callander.

“Our job is getting more and more dangerous. We deserve to be covered, we deserve compensation. Tomorrow I could be dead.”

He has been firefighting since 1996 and a professional firefighter since 2000.

NZPFU says international research shows firefighters have a significantly greater risk of testicular, prostate and brain cancer.

“If they were working as firefighters in Australia or Canada they would be covered,” NZPFU secretary Wattie Watson said.

That’s because Australia, Canada and parts of the United States have adopted a legislative stance that presumes a firefighter’s cancer was caused by toxic carcinogens during firefighting.

It’s a law change the union is calling for, and that Tracey Martin, Internal Affairs Minister, supports.

In a statement, Mrs Martin said she’s continuing to talk to ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway about it.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he is considering legislative changes to make ACC’s claims process for firefighters with cancer more transparent and accessible, but not a presumptive law change.

"That would be a significant change to the way ACC works," Mr Lees-Galloway said in a statement. 

"No other occupation has a presumptive list."