PA Workers' Compensation Act Could Change if Bill Approved
This past summer in Carbon County —near Allentown—volunteer first responders were called to the popular Glen Onoko falls to initiate several rescue missions. Tragically, one of them involved a hiker who died and another who was injured after slipping and tumbling down the falls.
The incident prompted a rescue operation that required several fire and ambulance crews, as well as a helicopter. But what would have happened if one of those volunteer first responders had slipped and fallen, suffering a career-ending injury?
Under Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Act, insurance coverage for injuries suffered by volunteers while responding to emergencies on state game lands would be provided by their local municipalities.
But that might soon change.
Calling the system unfair, Sen. John Yudichak, of Plymouth Township, sought to change it through a piece of legislation—SB 1363—that would shift the burden of those insurance costs to the state, making volunteer first responders eligible for Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation coverage by designating them as Game Commission employees when responding to emergencies on public game lands.
The bill, which will soon go before the full Senate for consideration, would basically shift the financial burden of covering volunteers' injuries in those situations from the local municipality to the state.
The rationale? That municipalities shouldn't potentially be financially penalized if one of their volunteers is significantly injured while helping out with an emergency on state game lands.
The pending change in Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Act would also assure that no volunteer fire company, ambulance crew, or rescue squad would be discouraged from responding to such emergencies.
In its current form, the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act provides coverage to volunteer first responders who are injured while responding to emergencies in state parks and forests. This additional language is expected to go a long way toward protecting the interests of those folks when they head out to help with fires and other emergencies on state game lands.
The workers' compensation attorneys here at Edgar Snyder & Associates have helped thousands of injured workers over the past three decades. We know from dealing one-on-one with them how workers' compensation benefits are a lifeline to families reeling from the financial losses associated with a serious on-the-job injury.
If this move takes a bit of worry away from first responders who put their lives on the line to help others, we are all for it.