Bill to add protections for injured volunteer fire personnel

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A bill in the Pennsylvania Statehouse would make sure all active-duty firefighters have access to the State Worker's Insurance Fund, being denied access to compensation from this fund is a problem some volunteer companies have faced when members got hurt on the job.

Volunteer firefighters injured while fighting a fire have access to the State Worker's Insurance Fund, but that line gets blurred when they get hurt doing other jobs for the fire company.

"What there was a little question about was the people that support the fire company through raising funds at their carnivals," said Jerry Ozog, Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute Executive Director. "And chicken dinners, and those type of things."

Senate Bill 94, introduced by State Sen. Scott Martin, would make it clear who exactly is covered by the State Workers' Insurance Fund, also known as SWIF, when they're hurt.

"These people rush out of their own beds in the middle of the night, or they walk away from their job in the middle of the day in order to serve us on the most critical emergency times, " said Sen. Martin. "We have to do everything we can to make it, that we have their backs in case something happens to them"

This bill would make sure all active-duty firefighters, fire police, officers, and directors of volunteer fire companies won't be denied access to compensation from SWIF when they are hurt working for their volunteer fire company. Ozog says, this will help give peace of mind to about 90 percent of the state's more than 2,000 fire companies.

"If you're going to donate your time to raise funds for the department and you get injured," said Ozog. "Say you trip and fall and hurt your knee, you will be covered."

SB94 passed out of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, and will head to the Senate floor for a vote.

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