by Karl Voigt
The Pennsylvania legislature is once again attempting to amend the Commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Act, this time in the form of House Bill 916, which aims to extend insured status to emergency management volunteers.
As a matter of public policy, the Act has long extended insurance coverage to volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance corps, volunteer hazmat teams, and other similar volunteers working in the public interest. Namely, §601(a) of the Act bestows Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage on people who are injured while working as unpaid volunteers.
It would, of course, be inherently unfair to disallow coverage to our volunteers who are injured in the line of duty. Why should their families suffer as a result of an injured that occurs from their volunteer work? Volunteers compose 70% of the nations firefighters. To deny coverage could discourage individuals from volunteering.
This new proposal extends that coverage to emergency management volunteers, who typically respond to large disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or civil disturbances. This proposal even specifically extends coverage to volunteers while traveling to and from these emergencies.
H.B. 916, if enacted, will ensure coverage to our emergency management volunteers who are injured in the line of duty.