(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Stender and Joseph V. Egan to ensure public safety workers who suffer a disability or death due to their often extreme work requirements are covered by workers’ compensation.
“These workers are our first line of defense. Their jobs are not only stressful, they are dangerous,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “This bill ensures that public safety workers are adequately covered if they suffer a debilitating illness or worse related to their duties at work.”
“Public safety workers expose themselves to dangerous situations that could prove debilitating and even deadly,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “The work is grueling not just physically, but mentally. The work itself can be a health hazard. They deserve comparable coverage.”
The bill (A-1196) creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for any death or disability, including post traumatic stress disorder, if the death or disability arises from the physical or psychological impact of stress or injury experienced by a public safety worker engaged in response to a terrorist attack, epidemic, or other catastrophic emergency, in which the worker is exposed to pathogens or biological toxins from biological warfare or epidemics, hazardous chemicals used in, or related to, chemical warfare, or cancer-causing radiation or radioactive substances, or witnesses death and suffering of a magnitude sufficient to cause significant psychological trauma.
The public safety workers covered by the bill include paid or volunteer emergency, correctional, fire, police and medical personnel. The bill requires employers of public safety workers expected to respond to terrorist attacks or catastrophic emergencies to provide needed psychological and social counseling for the workers during and after the incidents or emergencies.
The bill provides that, with respect to all of the rebuttable presumptions of coverage, employers may require workers to undergo, at employer expense, reasonable testing, evaluation and monitoring of worker health conditions to determine whether exposures or other presumed causes are actually linked to the deaths, illnesses or disabilities, and further provides that the presumptions of compensability are not adversely affected by failures of employers to require testing, evaluation or monitoring.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee.