Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees - changes to the Firefighters Presumptive Rights Compensation Scheme

Information about changes for firefighter vehicle and equipment maintenance employees which became law on 16 March 2022.

Please note

As part of the Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Act 2022, changes for Country Fire Authority and Fire Rescue Victoria vehicle and equipment maintenance employees will commence on a date to be proclaimed.

Overview

Emergency Management Victoria is leading changes to the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019 (FPRC Act) to:

  • extend presumptive rights coverage to CFA and FRV vehicle and equipment maintenance employees
  • change the method for calculating eligibility qualifying periods to count part year of service as a full year of service
  • allow periods of service as an CFA, FRV or forest firefighter or as a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee to be combined

The need to expand the Presumptive Rights Compensation Scheme for vehicle and equipment maintenance employees

Extending presumptive rights for specified cancers to vehicle and equipment maintenance employees employed by CFA or the FRV recognises the critical role they play in maintaining firefighting equipment at the fire scene and ensures equity for persons employed in those roles.

Mechanical engineers are required to attend fires to repair and refuel fire trucks. They are exposed to the same carcinogens as firefighters when attending fires to clean and maintain firefighting equipment.

Victoria is the first Australian state to extend presumptive rights coverage to vehicle and equipment maintenance employees.

Will service in other jurisdictions count toward the qualifying period?

The presumptive right will apply to vehicle and equipment maintenance employees employed by CFA and FRV. Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees will be able to rely on periods of service where they are deployed to other jurisdictions, for example to provide surge capacity.

Changes to the method for calculating qualifying periods

The change to calculating the qualifying period ensures consistency between the presumptive right administered under the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019 and the Forest Act 1958. The Forests Amendment (Forest Firefighters Presumptive Rights Compensation) Bill 2021 allows a part year of service to count as a full year, recognising that a significant number of forest firefighters work seasonally.

What about Government department and agency employees who undertake firefighting and suppression work?

A separate Bill was introduced into Parliament establishing a presumptive right to compensation for workers undertaking critical fire prevention and suppression work for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP).

The Forests Amendment (Forest Firefighters Presumptive Rights Compensation) Act 2021 (Forests Amendment Bill) will also capture partner agencies, for example VicForest, Parks Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria, as well as other departments. The Act has not yet commenced as it is yet to be proclaimed. Further information about the Act is available on the Victorian Legislation website.

Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees who are no longer employed

The Firefighter's Presumptive Rights Compensation Scheme (presumptive rights scheme) will apply where a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee's eligible cancer occurs during the person's service as a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee or within 10 years after they ceased to be employed as a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee.

Can a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee lodge a claim if they were previously rejected under the existing scheme?

If a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee who had an injury on or after 1 June 2016 lodged a claim under the Victoria’s workers’ compensation scheme or the volunteer compensation scheme and the claim was rejected, the employee can re-lodge the claim for consideration under the presumption.

Accessing compensation under the presumptive rights scheme

Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees employed by CFA and FRV should apply directly to WorkSafe for compensation under the presumptive rights scheme, using the claims form on the WorkSafe website. The CFA will not manage claims under the presumptive rights scheme.

Compensation entitlements to be paid

Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees who qualify for compensation under the presumptive rights scheme will be entitled to the existing benefits provided by WorkSafe in accordance with Victoria's workers' compensation scheme.

When can I claim presumptive compensation?

You can make a claim after the amendments to the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019 come into effect on a date to be proclaimed, expected to be in mid-2022.

Minimum years of service

Vehicle and equipment maintenance employees diagnosed with a listed cancer who do not meet the minimum years of service threshold might still qualify for compensation under a special consideration process if they can demonstrate attendance at an "exceptional exposure event". The Strategic Advisory Committee will provide advice to WorkSafe on whether a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee has attended such an event, having regard to the nature of the event, any relevant findings by a court or other inquiry, and any relevant records.

Dispute resolution

Under Victoria's workers' compensation scheme, a vehicle and equipment maintenance employee who disputes a decision made in relation to their claim, including a decision to reject the claim, can request conciliation of the dispute by the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS).

If further medical information is required to resolve a dispute at conciliation, the ACCS may refer a medical question to the Medical Panel for a conclusive medical opinion.

If the dispute cannot be resolved via conciliation, the firefighter can commence proceedings for judicial review of the decision in the Magistrates' Court or County Court.

View the Act

The Act and other Parliamentary documents can be found on the Victorian Legislation website.

Further information

You can also find out more about the proposed Act by contacting a WorkSafe advisor.

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