It is perhaps not to any great surprise that it has recently been reported that the Fire Brigade's Union has called upon the Government to provide more and better protection for all our firefighters after research has found that firefighters appear to be at an increased risk of falling victim to a number of different forms of cancer as a result of being exposed to high levels of harmful chemicals. Such exposure may be as a result of attending fires but also coming into contact with contaminated clothes and equipment.
It has only recently been openly acknowledged by the UK's Chief Fire Officer that there are higher rates of certain types of cancer amongst his colleagues and that such higher rates are very likely to be associated with the work they do.
Chris Moore, an FBU spokesman, who is himself suffering from an incurable cancer said:-
"The Government needs to wake up and realise there could well be harm here...
Give us better protective equipment and more of it... so when it gets dirty we put it away and we can put on a fresh set"
Experts are beginning to wake up to the possibility of the link being established. Professor Anna Stec, a Fire Chemistry and Toxicity Expert, has called upon the Government to protect firefighters by providing them with the best possible medical care, education and support. She believes that the risk of developing cancer has been increased by exposure to dangerously high levels of harmful chemicals whilst attending fires and when coming into contact with contaminated equipment.
Under current employment legislation, employers are obliged to assess all risks to their employees and to take such protective measures which ensure that such risks are reduced to the minimum accepted levels. If they fail to undertake such assessments and put in place such measures, then it follows that any loss or injury following from the exposure to harmful chemicals will be deemed to be the fault of the employer leaving them liable to pay damages to any victim to compensate them for all losses they have sustained.
Until relatively recently, thee has been inconclusive data providing the necessary connection between the exposure to the toxic chemicals, whether that be directly in a fire or indirect through contaminated clothes and equipment, and the significantly higher incidence of cancer amongst firefighters. However, with more sophisticated data and research, that connection appears to be much closer to being established.
In these circumstances, we are likely to see more claims being made by firefighters in instances where they have contracted cancer and it is a type of cancer with a known connection to the work done. For any victims who subsequently die as a result of the cancer, such a claim would rest with their legal representatives. The deceased's close family also potentially have Loss of Society claims as a result of the early death of their loved one.
Anyone contemplating a claim, does of course, face the challenge of obtaining a sufficiently robust expert opinion from a suitably qualified expert who is prepared to confirm there is a sufficiently close connection between exposure to the toxic chemicals and the subsequent cancer.
Of course, as well as providing much needed compensation to the victims, any such claims made and court actions raised ought to send a firm message to the Government that action needs to be taken, both quickly and decisively, to ensure that all firefighters currently in the job and indeed those young men and women contemplating a career as a firefighter are fully protected against any unacceptable risks and particularly the risk of contracting many different forms of cancer is reduced to the absolute minimum.
Here at Calio Claims, our personal injury team are experts at dealing with many different employer liability and cancer related claims. If you believe that you or anyone in your family are affected by any of the issues in this article, please get in touch by calling us on 0800 988 8082 or complete our online enquiry form and we will be happy to provide you with preliminary advice.