Member for Roe Peter Rundle has called on the State Government to address the growing concerns from volunteer firefighters around the consequences of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2020.
Mr Rundle used a Grievance in Parliament to ask the Minister for Emergency Services to provide clarity around the chain of responsibility and the liability at each level when there is a fire.
“I have been contacted by many concerned farmers and volunteers regarding the new laws, which goes to show that the information provided has not been clear enough,” Mr Rundle said.
“Since October this year, I have been raising this issue with the Minister, by asking who takes the ultimate responsibility for the safety of volunteer firefighters while they are on the fireground.
“There is a long chain of responsibility during an emergency bushfire, including the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, local government CEO’s, community and emergency services managers, local brigade officers, bushfire control officers and farmers.
“Clarity is vital heading into the upcoming bushfire season so volunteers can be reassured of their safety while they are out defending lives and homes from the devastating damage blazes can cause.”
Mr Rundle welcomed the Minister for Emergency Services providing some clarity for volunteer firefighters, who are concerned about new penalties and the definition of roles and responsibilities.
“I thank the Minister for addressing some of my queries by providing documents detailing the chain of responsibility, but there are still grave concerns surrounding the new Act and its imminent implementation,” Mr Rundle said.
“The Minister must also provide clear information to Local Government’s and farmers on what their liability is during a fire.
“By acting now, the State Government can prevent hesitancy and provide reassurance for our volunteers, by giving the promised support and training packages and clearly defining who has ultimate responsibility.
“There are heavy fuel loads across regional areas due to high winter rainfall, and most farmers are working around the clock attending to harvest – communities are rightly worried volunteers may not respond to a fire due to hesitancy.
“We can’t risk losing the faith of our volunteer firefighters and fire brigades when we need them most.”