Occupational diseases — Presumption of occupational disease for firefighters — Limitations — Exception — Rules.
(1) In the case of firefighters as defined in *RCW 41.26.030(4) (a), (b), and (c) who are covered under Title 51 RCW and firefighters, including supervisors, employed on a full-time, fully compensated basis as a firefighter of a private sector employer's fire department that includes over fifty such firefighters, there shall exist a prima facie presumption that: (a) Respiratory disease; (b) any heart problems, experienced within seventy-two hours of exposure to smoke, fumes, or toxic substances, or experienced within twenty-four hours of strenuous physical exertion due to firefighting activities; (c) cancer; and (d) infectious diseases are occupational diseases under RCW 51.08.140. This presumption of occupational disease may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. Such evidence may include, but is not limited to, use of tobacco products, physical fitness and weight, lifestyle, hereditary factors, and exposure from other employment or nonemployment activities.
(2) The presumptions established in subsection (1) of this section shall be extended to an applicable member following termination of service for a period of three calendar months for each year of requisite service, but may not extend more than sixty months following the last date of employment.
(3) The presumption established in subsection (1)(c) of this section shall only apply to any active or former firefighter who has cancer that develops or manifests itself after the firefighter has served at least ten years and who was given a qualifying medical examination upon becoming a firefighter that showed no evidence of cancer. The presumption within subsection (1)(c) of this section shall only apply to prostate cancer diagnosed prior to the age of fifty, primary brain cancer, malignant melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, colorectal cancer, multiple myeloma, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer.
(4) The presumption established in subsection (1)(d) of this section shall be extended to any firefighter who has contracted any of the following infectious diseases: Human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, all strains of hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, or mycobacterium tuberculosis.
(5) Beginning July 1, 2003, this section does not apply to a firefighter who develops a heart or lung condition and who is a regular user of tobacco products or who has a history of tobacco use. The department, using existing medical research, shall define in rule the extent of tobacco use that shall exclude a firefighter from the provisions of this section.
(6) For purposes of this section, "firefighting activities" means fire suppression, fire prevention, emergency medical services, rescue operations, hazardous materials response, aircraft rescue, and training and other assigned duties related to emergency response.
(7)(a) When a determination involving the presumption established in this section is appealed to the board of industrial insurance appeals and the final decision allows the claim for benefits, the board of industrial insurance appeals shall order that all reasonable costs of the appeal, including attorney fees and witness fees, be paid to the firefighter or his or her beneficiary by the opposing party.
(b) When a determination involving the presumption established in this section is appealed to any court and the final decision allows the claim for benefits, the court shall order that all reasonable costs of the appeal, including attorney fees and witness fees, be paid to the firefighter or his or her beneficiary by the opposing party.
(c) When reasonable costs of the appeal must be paid by the department under this section in a state fund case, the costs shall be paid from the accident fund and charged to the costs of the claim.
[2007 c 490 § 2; 2002 c 337 § 2; 1987 c 515 § 2.]
| *Reviser's note: RCW 41.26.030 was alphabetized pursuant to RCW 1.08.015(2)(k), changing subsection (4)(a), (b), and (c) to subsection (16)(a), (b), and (c).|
Legislative findings -- 1987 c 515: "The legislature finds that the employment of firefighters exposes them to smoke, fumes, and toxic or chemical substances. The legislature recognizes that firefighters as a class have a higher rate of respiratory disease than the general public. The legislature therefore finds that respiratory disease should be presumed to be occupationally related for industrial insurance purposes for firefighters." [1987 c 515 § 1.]