New Jersey’s first responders play a critical role in treating victims of accidents and other emergencies, often putting their lives on the line to help others. While this job is rewarding, it is also stressful and risky. Many first responders in Newark get hurt on the job because they are exposed to conditions or situations that make them vulnerable to injuries and illnesses.

To address this and to recognize the valiant efforts of local first responders, the state legislature in Trenton gave final legislative approval to a new bill that ensures that they will receive medical care and compensation for medical care they receive in the line of duty. The bill also protects first responders for any conditions that may not manifest until long after the event.

Bill S-1778 is now waiting the signature of the Governor for final approval. The objective of the bill is to create a refutable presumption for workers’ compensation coverage by shifting the proof from the employee to the employer. It will cover any death or disability as a result of conditions and situations that cause physical, psychological and emotional distress to employees.

According to the bill, first responders will immediately receive wage replacement and medical benefits. The bill applies to medical responders, first aid workers, triage workers, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, nurses and technicians.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 left many emergency responders at risk for conditions caused by debris and dust. Many suffered psychological trauma, respiratory problems, injuries and long-term illnesses. The bill is also named after one of the firefighters who was at ground zero for weeks and championed coverage for first responders’ diseases.

First responders’ bravado and dedication make them true heroes. If this bill is passed, it is a statement of recognition of their valiant work.

Unfortunately, there are still other workers whose jobs are unsafe, which puts them at risk for serious injuries or death. Those who suffer from unsafe working conditions need to understand their rights. Like the first responders that would be helped by this bill, any victim of unsafe working conditions has legal remedies to help with recovery.

Source:, “MONROE: Greenstein touts first responders bill,” Amy Batista, May 20, 2013.