Due to heavy demand, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is more than doubling its funding for a new grant program aimed at protecting firefighters from carcinogens and other toxins that cause long-term health ailments.
CEO Sarah Morrison said her agency had originally allotted $2 million this year for its Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program, but as of Feb. 28 BWC had received 444 grant applications seeking nearly $4.7 million in funding.
“When we call firefighters for help, they’re at our door as fast as humanly possible,” said Morrison. “It’s only right that we do the same when they need equipment critical to their health and safety. We want every qualifying fire department that applies for these grants to get their funds as soon as possible.”
To date, BWC has awarded 199 grants totaling $2 million, with four months remaining in the fiscal year. The other 245 grant applications are pending.
The grant program is one of several health and safety components to BWC’s Third Billion Back rebate to Ohio employers last year. Firefighters have a nine percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
BWC’s grant program will continue for a second year beginning July 1 with a funding level of $2 million.