Making a claim for work-related injury or illness
Information for firefighters
What is the definition of a firefighter?
A firefighter is a person who undertakes firefighting duties as a substantial portion of their employment. It may also include people who are exposed to fires but are not formally referred to as firefighters, such as people who provide non-firefighting support at fire emergency scenes.
Are Victorian firefighters entitled to compensation for work-related injury or illness?
Yes. In accordance with Victorian workers compensation legislation, WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) can pay the reasonable costs of medical and like services and weekly payments for loss of income as a result of a work-related injury or illness.
Firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB), the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) are covered by their employers' policies under the WorkSafe scheme.
CFA volunteer firefighters are covered by a compensation scheme provided for under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (the CFA Act), which is administered by the CFA. The CFA scheme includes provisions of the workers compensation legislation, which set out the conditions that need to be met for an injury or illness to be compensable. CFA volunteer fighters should go to the end of this information sheet for specific information about the CFA compensation scheme – all other information here does not apply to CFA volunteer firefighters.
The legislation entitles a worker to compensation for an injury which arises out of or in the course of their employment. If a worker contracts a disease in the course of employment (whether at, or away from, the place of employment) or suffers a recurrence, deterioration, aggravation, acceleration or exacerbation of any pre-existing injury or disease, compensation is payable if the employment was significant contributing factor to the contraction or the recurrence or worsening of the injury or disease.
The legislation also entitles a worker to compensation for a disease which is due to the nature of the worker's employment. The nature of the worker's employment must give rise to a significantly greater risk of the worker contracting the disease than if they had not worked in that employment.
What should you do if you have an injury or illness you think may be work-related?
Seek medical treatment and put in a claim
The most important thing is getting appropriate medical treatment from your treating health practitioner. You may be entitled to compensation for your injury or illness. Subject to the requirements of the legislation, the types of compensation payable can include:
- Weekly payments for loss of income
- Medical and like expenses
- Impairment benefit
- Superannuation contributions after 52 weeks of weekly payments
- Claim for damages.
If you are still employed and need time off work or you lose income as a result of your injury or illness, speak to your employer's injury and claims manager or return to work coordinator – they will help you complete a claim for weekly payments for loss of income and medical and like expenses.
If you are retired, you can claim for medical and like expenses only. You may also be able to claim weekly payments for loss of income if your incapacity for work is a result of your injury and you were injured within 130 weeks before or after reaching retirement age (65 years). You should seek further information from your WorkSafe Agent if you believe this applies to you.
Complete as much detail on the claim form as you can. You must sign Part 6 of the claim form authorising the release of medical information.
The claim must be given to your employer (i.e. the employer you are claiming your injury, illness or condition developed as a result of your employment with them). The sooner you submit the claim form, the sooner a decision can be made on whether you are eligible for compensation.
Your employer cannot refuse your claim and must forward it to the WorkSafe Agent within 10 days of receiving it from you or your authorised representative. If you are still employed, your employer cannot dismiss you for making a claim.
If you would like to make a claim for an impairment benefit due to an injury or illness that has resulted in a permanent impairment, you must do this separately to any claim you make for weekly payments for loss of income or medical and like expenses.
You may also have the right to sue for damages (compensation) for pain and suffering and/or economic loss if your injury is found to be a serious injury as defined by the legislation and was negligently or intentionally caused. You should seek legal advice if you wish to do this.
Firefighters employed with the MFB
Your WorkSafe Agent is:
Gallagher Bassett Services Workers Compensation Vic Pty Ltd
Locked Bag 3570, GPO Melbourne, VIC 3001
Tel: 1800 774 377
Firefighters employed with the CFA and Parks Victoria
Your WorkSafe Agent is:
CGU Workers Compensation (Victoria) Limited
PO Box 2090S Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: 1800 066 204
Firefighters employed with the DEPI
Your WorkSafe Agent is:
GPO Box 751 Melbourne, VIC 3001
Tel: 1800 066 204
How to make a WorkSafe claim – a guide for injured workers
Worker's Injury Claim Form
Weekly payments for loss of income
Medical and like expenses
Permanent impairment benefit
Claim for common law damages
Make a record of your injury or illness
If you are still employed, when you let your employer know about your injury or illness, make sure a record is made in the Register of Injuries. Your employer must keep a Register of Injuries at your workplace. This can be filled in by you, or someone on your behalf, and should be done within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury or illness.
If you don't notify your employer of your injury, you may not be entitled to compensation.
Get a medical certificate
If you have suffered a loss of income because you can't do your normal job and want to claim weekly payments, you should first see a medical practitioner who can issue you with a WorkSafe medical certificate. The certificate needs to describe your injury, your anticipated time off work and possible alternative duties or hours.
Further information to include with your claim
It is not mandatory to provide the following information to commence the claim process, but to ensure your claim has the best chance of being properly assessed, it is recommended you include as much relevant information as possible to support your claim. This can be attached to your claim form if there is insufficient room on the form. It could include:
- Your fire service history (paid or as a volunteer)
- Any other employment you may have been engaged in
If claiming for a disease, including work-related cancer, details of any specific exposures to hazardous substances you can recall and/or the names and dates of any large fires or incidents you may have attended (e.g. the Coode Island fire in 1991; the United Transport Fire in 1989; the Butlers Transport Fire in 1985).
If claiming for a disease, including work-related cancer, any relevant medical reports from your treating health practitioner(s) detailing the nature of your condition, when you were first diagnosed, the treatment you are receiving, any known risk factors or suspected causes.
If you do not provide this information, your claim will still be assessed and the relevant WorkSafe Agent will endeavor to obtain this information utilising the medical authority you must sign on the claim form.
Do I need to tell my employer if I have a pre-existing injury or illness?
Before you are employed, your prospective employer may ask you to disclose details of any pre-existing injury or illness that you are aware of that might affect your ability to perform the contracted work. This will enable the employer to provide you with a safe workplace and to prevent any pre-existing injury or illness from recurring. The employer must request this in writing and, by law, you must disclose this information. If you do not, and your pre-existing injury or illness subsequently recurs or worsens in the course of your employment with that employer, you will not be able to make a WorkSafe claim for the recurrence or worsening of the injury or illness.
The assessment process - what happens after the claim is submitted?
Your employer's WorkSafe Agent is responsible for assessing your claim, including obtaining additional medical and claim circumstance information if required.
The WorkSafe Agent must notify you and your employer in writing of its decision to accept or reject your claim within 28 days of receiving it. If you believe the WorkSafe Agent is unaware of some aspect of your injury or illness you should contact them to discuss the matter.
You may also be contacted by a WorkSafe approved claims investigator to provide further information to support your claim. You are not obliged to discuss your claim with the investigator; however, the information you provide may be useful in assessing your claim.
Independent medical examinations
Independent medical examiners are independent healthcare professionals appointed by WorkSafe based on strict criteria. They are assigned to carry out examinations based on their area of expertise, for example, an orthopedic surgeon to assess a musculo-skeletal injury. For firefighters making a claim for work-related cancer, you will be examined by an oncologist (cancer specialist).
They work in private practice or hospitals, in addition to performing independent medical examinations, but they cannot examine a worker they have previously treated. They are not employees or representatives of WorkSafe or WorkSafe Agents or self-insurers, however, they are paid by WorkSafe Agents and self-insurers to examine injured workers and provide independent medical advice.
Independent medical examiners are subject to a rigorous quality assurance program by WorkSafe to ensure the ongoing quality of their work. You may be asked to attend an independent medical examination by your WorkSafe Agent or a lawyer representing your WorkSafe Agent or self-insurer. The examinations are used to help your WorkSafe Agent understand and assess your injury or illness to ensure you receive the appropriate entitlements and treatment.
Your WorkSafe Agent will notify you of the time and place of the examination. If the time is not suitable, you should contact the Agent as soon as possible to reschedule the appointment or make alternative arrangements.
The examination will take approximately one hour. The healthcare professional will be given any medical information you have provided as well as any information regarding your service history.
Some claims may require a second opinion. In such cases, the independent medical examiner will prepare a report based on the examination and this will be reviewed, along with any other reports or information you or your treating health practitioner(s) have provided, by a second independent medical examiner (generally an occupational physician). This does not require you to attend a second examination.
The occupational physician will then write their own report, which will be provided, along with the first report, to the WorkSafe Agent.
If you would like a copy of the report, you can request this from the WorkSafe Agent.
The WorkSafe Agent will endeavour to obtain all requested reports prior to the 28 day time frame allowed under the legislation to make a decision. The availability of the independent medical examiners, your availability to attend an examination and other administrative requirements all affect the Agent's capacity to achieve this. Please refer to the decision making process below for more information.
While your claim is being assessed
While your WorkSafe Agent is assessing your claim, you can:
- Discuss access to sick or other leave entitlements with your employer. If your claim is accepted, any leave you took because of your injury or illness may be re-credited to you. You may also be entitled to make-up pay from your employer.
- Apply to Centrelink for any benefits that you may be entitled to. Centrelink will confirm the status of your claim with your employer. However, if Centrelink pays benefits to you and your claim is accepted, your weekly payments may be reduced to take into account any Centrelink benefits received.
The decision making process
The WorkSafe Agent must make a decision to accept or reject your claim for compensation within 28 days of receiving your claim.
To accept a claim a sufficient connection between your injury or disease and your employment as a firefighter must be established. The main tests for entitlement to compensation are as follows:
1) There must be an injury arising out of or in the course of the performance of your duties as a firefighter; or
2) If you contract a disease in the course of your employment as a firefighter or suffer a recurrence, deterioration, aggravation, acceleration or exacerbation of any pre-existing injury or disease, your employment as a firefighter must be a significant contributing factor to the contraction of the disease or recurrence or worsening of your pre-existing injury or disease; or
3) If you contract a disease, the nature of your employment as a firefighter must give rise to a significantly greater risk of you contracting the disease than had you not been employed in employment of that nature.
If some or all of the information requested is unavailable by the 28th day, the WorkSafe Agent may issue a rejection of your claim until all the information is received. You will be sent a letter informing you of this, which will explain the reasons for the initial rejection of the claim. The decision will be re-assessed once all the relevant information requested has been received and you will receive a further notification of the outcome.
What if I disagree with a decision?
If you are not satisfied with a decision, you can seek an internal review and/or apply to the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS). Information about this will be provided in the decision letter. If you are legally represented, your lawyer should be able to assist you with the application.
The WorkSafe Agent can also advise you about the ACCS process and will act to ensure your application is dealt with as soon as possible, including assisting the Conciliation Officer with any referral to a Medical Panel, should this be considered necessary.
If you'd like more information about work-related injury or illness claims for firefighters, please:
- speak to your employer's injury and claims manager or return to work coordinator
- phone your WorkSafe Agent
Volunteer firefighters with the CFA
The CFA manages all volunteer claims directly. To submit a claim for injury or illness, please complete a CFA Volunteer Compensation Personal Injury Claim Form (blue in colour). This form can be obtained by contacting your District Office or CFA Headquarters.
The claim form should be completed, signed and given to your Brigade Captain or Officer in Charge to enable them to complete the relevant section. Once completed, the form should be forwarded to your District Office.
If you require assistance in completing the form, please contact your District Office or the Volunteer Compensation Section at CFA Headquarters. CFA volunteer members can access a range of comprehensive information about compensation for injury and illness by logging into Brigades Online and visiting the Accident and Injury page.
Does WorkSafe provide automatic compensation for any particular diseases?
If a worker contracts certain diseases while undertaking certain processes or working in certain occupations, it is automatically presumed that the disease was caused by their employment, and it will be compensable unless otherwise proven. There are 25 diseases proclaimed under Victoria's workers compensation legislation, a list of which can be found in the Online Claims Manual at Chapter 5.5.3 – List of proclaimed diseases.
Why does the Victorian list of 25 proclaimed diseases not include the 12 forms of cancer prescribed under the Commonwealth's Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, which covers Commonwealth firefighters?
The medical conditions proclaimed as diseases under section 87 of the Act have been subject to stringent and comprehensive evidence requirements particular to Victoria's compensation system.
The proclaimed medical conditions for Victorian workers are strongly linked to occupational exposure and have a greater incidence rate of such conditions among workers undertaking specific types of work than the types of cancer included in the Commonwealth legislative amendments.
What are the links between the exposure of firefighters to firefighting activities and the incidence of cancer and other health problems?
The Victorian Government has committed to the introduction of legislation to give career and volunteer firefighters presumptive rights to compensation for cancer claims arising from their service.
A Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the CFA's Fiskville Training Facility will examine findings of a cancer study conducted by Monash University.