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Firefighters: New Law Jeopardizes Training

Updated: Tuesday, June 17 2014, 01:41 PM CDT

ILLINOIS -- Firefighters and other professional groups say a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday could keep them from getting the safety training they need.

The law would make any outside group an employer hires for training liable for damages in a workers compensation case, whereas before they were immune. Firefighters, roofers, and other professional groups say they rely on outside groups for training and the increased liability could result in increased costs.

"And we feel this law is just going to erode this, and lead to injuries and possible deaths," said Margaret Vaughn, a lobbyist for several groups including firefighters and roofers.

At a press conference Friday, a day after the bill they oppose was signed into law, the Illinois Firefighters Association and other professional groups said they want to educate the public on some negative effects.

" Most of this outside training is firefighters training firefighters from other departments," said Chief John Swan, president of the Illinois Firefighters Association. "This piece of legislation could put a stop to that, or at least hinder the training."

Springfield firefighters get a lot of training from outside stations or groups.

"We have officer training," said Springfield Fire Chief Ken Fustin. "We have grain bin rescue training. There's a multitude of different cornerstone classes available from the IFSI (Illinois Fire Service Institute). State Farm Insurance just put on the canine training in Springfield."

The president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Stephen Phillips, which championed the bill, says the firefighters' fears are misplaced.

"There's also kind of immunities that they have separate and apart from this workers compensation," Phillips said, "and this was the misinformation from the insurance industry that put all this in motion."

As for others - like outside safety training groups - one of the sponsors, Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) said, it shouldn't be that much of a problem.

"You know there's going to be an additional cost to the third-party training company; there's no doubt. Because they're going to have to be required to get insurance - again, like everybody else does."

But groups like roofers say the costs won't stop there.

"A lot of the roofing contractors are small business owners who will no longer be able to afford the safety contractors, because their rates are going to go through the roof. No pun intended.," said Vaughn

Since this is already a law the firefighters and other groups want to get an amendment passed as soon as possible that would exempt the public safety field, and make sure the other professions could still get outside training, too.

Firefighters: New Law Jeopardizes Training

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