Firefighters in North Carolina are likely paying close attention to three bills making their way through the state legislature. The first of these bills is House Bill 355, which would ban firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals. These man-made toxic substances are known as “forever chemicals” because they never break down in the environment. They have been linked to several forms of cancer and reproductive and immune system damage. House Bill 448 would permit fire trucks to use blue flashing lights in emergency situations, and House Bill 492 would allow firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers who develop post-traumatic stress disorder to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
All three of these proposed bills have broad bipartisan support and are expected to pass in the House of Representatives, but House Bill 492, which has already passed, faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The upper chamber has blocked the same legislation in the past because senators were worried that allowing emergency workers with PTSD to receive workers’ compensation benefits could open the door for workers in other occupations to seek compensation for mental health issues.
When pressed on the issue, a leading lawmaker admitted that the objections to House Bill 492 are based on worries about rising costs. Advocacy groups that represent firefighters and police officers say timely treatment for PTSD will save lives. Five firefighters in North Carolina took their own lives in 2020 alone. House Bill 448 also faces opposition, but this time the objections are coming from law enforcement. Current law only allows police vehicles to display blue lights, and law enforcement groups want to keep it that way.
Workers’ compensation benefits
If you have been injured in an on-the-job accident or developed a work-related illness in North Carolina and your workers’ compensation claim was denied, an attorney with experience in this area could initiate an appeal by filing a Request That Claim Be Assigned form with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. An attorney could also advocate on your behalf in a formal hearing.