Volunteer first responders provide valuable services to the community, but they aren’t always given the benefits they need in exchange for those services. One area that leaves a lot to be desired is the state’s workers’ compensation laws.
As it stands now, volunteer first responders, including firefighters, are only covered by workers’ compensation policies if they’re responding to a call. They aren’t covered by them when they’re performing other duties that are essential to their positions. This includes things like making sure the fire trucks are clean and stocked.
Senate Bill 94, which was co-sponsored by many Senators, seeks to change that law. The bill would require municipalities to provide workers’ compensation coverage to first responders who are actively engaging in duties related to their position.
Emergency responders have tough duties to handle throughout their shifts. The new bill recognizes that without these volunteers, many municipalities would have lapses in services that could put community members at risk of suffering from injuries and property loss.
By offering protection for volunteer responders, it is hoped that recruiting new members will be easier. The number of volunteer responders has been on the decline across the country. In Pennsylvania, there were only around 38,000 volunteer first responders. This is down from a high of around 300,000 in the 1970s.
Anyone who is harmed while they are doing job duties for their position might need to seek benefits from workers’ compensation. These benefits include payments for medical care costs. When they can’t return to work right away, it can cover a portion of their lost wages.