Senate Passes Legislation Supporting State Park Rangers and Wildlife Officers
SB 391 allows the treatment of skin cancer to be covered through workers’ compensation just as it is for state and local lifeguards
SACRAMENTO – The Senate on Thursday passed legislation by Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, to ensure state park rangers and wildlife officers can receive treatment for skin cancer through workers’ compensation.
The measure was approved on a 40-0 vote and goes next to the Assembly for consideration.
SB 391 would establish a rebuttable presumption that skin cancer developed by California’s wildlife officers and park rangers is associated with excessive exposure to the sun during their employment, thereby removing barriers to receiving workers’ compensation coverage for skin cancer treatment. The same rebuttable presumption currently exists for lifeguards employed by cities or counties and the state Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Sun exposure comes with working outside all the time, which is what park rangers and wildlife officers do,” Blakespear said. “It stands to reason that since park rangers and wildlife officers are forced to be exposed to the sun as part of their jobs, they should be covered for skin cancer, the primary health risk that comes with it.”
California wildlife officers and state park rangers often work 10 to 12 hours per day, and many of those hours are spent outside in the sun. For career wildlife officers and park rangers, this amounts to decades being outside.
According to a 2017 article in the international, peer-reviewed journal Occupational Medicine, workers with sun-exposed occupations have almost double the risk of developing cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and at least a 43 percent higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma compared with non-exposed workers.
Many state park rangers and wildlife officers have developed skin cancer. In several cases, they had to spend years fighting to get workers’ compensation to cover their claims, making their battle with the disease even more exhausting and stressful.
The legislation is co-sponsored by the California Fish & Game Warden Supervisors and Managers Association and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association. SB 391 has support from 18 organizations, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Planning and Conservation League, and no registered opposition.
Elected in November, Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern coastal San Diego County and part of Orange County. To learn more about the district and Blakespear, visit her Senate website.