Montgomery County Firefighters responded to a 3 alarm fire in Germantown early Monday morning. It was around 1 a.m. when the firefighters put their lives on the line and entered the home where they would be injured. An adjoining wall in the townhouse complex collapsed on the men sending all eight to the hospital, one of which has very serious injuries.
There is no doubt that the ordinary citizens owe these men a debt of gratitude for the courage and willingness to put their lives on the line to prevent further damage to our homes and our well being.
There will never be enough gratitude extended to these men and there families however the state does provide some additional workers compensation benefits to public safety employees. Public safety employees, as discussed in the Maryland Labor and employment article, are automatically considered to be second tier beneficiaries under workers compensation permanency awards. A permanency finding is issued for any employee who has suffered permanent damage from a work place injury. The payment amount changes each year depending on the states average weekly wage. Additionally, public safety employees are provided a lesser burden when dealing with certain occupational illness’.
These firefighters will obtain increased payments if they suffer from any permanent injury as a result of this incident. Non public safety employees who are injured in 2016 will be compensated at a rate of $172 per week for any permanency award below 75 weeks. The $172 amount is the first tier rate for injuries arising in 2016. If a public safety employee, firefighters, police, emt, receive an award below 75 weeks they are paid at the second tier rate. In 2016 this rate is $343 which will provide these men an award almost double that of the ordinary employee. The downside is these men will not receive an increased second tier award so any true benefit from this tier system exception is lost if the injury is severe enough to be compensated at 75 weeks or above.
In addition to the increased rate under permanency awards, public safety employees are granted a presumption regarding certain occupational diseases under Maryland law. What this means is a firefighter who develops heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, and various types of cancers are presumed to have developed them as a result of their occupation. This presumption is significant because it lowers the burden of proof for the injured worker and requires the employer to provide evidence to the contrary. Non public safety employees have a substantial burden to meet in the event they have suffered from similar occupational diseases.
While our firefighters, police officers, and emergency personnel are provided some extra perks under the states workers compensation laws, these laws do not fully repay them for what they put on the line day in and day out.