Employees who work in jobs that are notoriously dangerous,
workers' compensation benefits are important. However, new workers' compensation developments
in Hempfield, Pennsylvania, could mean big problems for volunteer firefighters.
Pennsylvania state law mandates that firefighters and paramedics who are
injured in the line of duty must be provided with workers' compensation
coverage. However, over the last five years, Hempfield has paid almost
$190,000 in workers' compensation claims to volunteer firefighters.
As a result, the township's insurance company is threatening to label
the town as "high risk".
What does that mean? It could mean a dramatic increase in premiums, extending
anywhere between 25 and 50 percent beyond the existing payment. Currently,
the township pays $58,500 to cover firefighters each year.
In light of the current circumstances, Hempfield officials have decided
that in the year 2011 nearly $600,000 of the firefighter's total budget
($880,000) will be subsidized. As it is, the township provides each unit
with $180,000, paid training, physicals and equipment.
Recent actions have included meetings between town administrators and fire
department officials in an effort to see that volunteer firefighters cut
back on duties that may lead to injury.
The request has sparked some controversy between firefighting officials
and township administration. According to the president of the Township
Fire Chief's Association, nothing about the firefighters' duties
is out of the ordinary. He went on to state that after 35 years as a firefighter;
he and his crew members have decided to continue on performing exactly
as they have in the past.
There's no doubt that firefighting is a dangerous job. It's also
undeniable that men and women who put themselves in harm's way to
protect the public deserve the security of compensation benefits if they're
injured in the line of duty. Unfortunately, it appears that workers'
compensation benefits have also fallen victim to the woes of a struggling
economy. As a result, insurance companies could begin to deny worker's
claims; which would pose a real problem for not only town officials, but
also firefighters hurt on the job.
Regardless of what line of work an employee is in, if they are injured
during work or have an injury that has developed over time because of
the type of work they perform, an attorney who specializes in workers'
compensation will be able to provide input for their specific situation
and create a game plan that is in the best interest of the employee.
Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Hempfield struggles with comp claims," Richard Gazarik, Aug. 6, 2011