Sometimes a bushfire volunteer may be injured in the course of their duties.
In April 2021 John Stevens, a volunteer firefighter for the City of Busselton’s rural brigade, injured his knee when stepping down from a fire truck onto soft sand. Mr Stevens suffered medial compartment osteoarthritis in the right knee and lodged a claim through the Scheme’s Bushfire personal injury protection.
Personal injury protection applies when a volunteer fire fighter suffers from an injury caused by undertaking normal brigade activities. The entitlements mirror the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act (1981) and follow the prescribed amounts as gazetted by WorkCover WA every year.
Mr Stevens’ claim was approved, with the Scheme covering his medical costs. The LGIS claim consultant managing the claim liaised directly with Mr Stevens, his medical providers, and the City throughout treatment.
Once largely recovered from pain, the medical provider indicated Mr Stevens could return to modified duties within the volunteer fire brigade to avoid any repetitive ascending or descending of stairs or impact loading of the knee. Mr Stevens was encouraged to speak to the Brigade Captain, to avoid being put in an unsafe situation or duties that could result in an injury to him or other brigade members.
The new Work, Health and Safety Act WA (2020) (WHS) changed the definition of a worker to now include volunteers. LGIS members have been seeking clarity on how they can meet their obligations, and what types of protections are included with LGIS membership.
Happily, these discussions resulted in Mr Stevens stepping down from active firefighting duties but continuing to contribute to the Brigade in a treasurer capacity, and assisting in driver and other training, and generally helping out around the brigade and auxiliary section.
“Moving to an administrative role had been on the cards for a while, as I’m now 75 and don’t want to risk my teammates during the long days. I’m glad to be able to still contribute to the brigade in a meaningful way. Liaising with LGIS made my claim process a trouble-free experience.”
A demanding role. What does it take to be a bushfire volunteer? The LGIS injury prevention team have done the most exhaustive assessment yet of the demands of a volunteer bushfire fighter role.
LGIS members across the state, particularly in the south and Wheatbelt, faced fires which destroyed property and razed the land. Changing environmental conditions will continue to pose significant challenges.