Liability warning to bushfire victims

21 Jan, 2016 08:25 AM
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Paul Ferraro, Tessa Ferraro, Jarrad Blackburn, Tony Ferraro and Trent Stubberfield inspecting the burnt fences at the Yarloop, Western Australia, dairy.
If one of them puts an auger through his foot you could end up dealing with a Worksafe incident...
Paul Ferraro, Tessa Ferraro, Jarrad Blackburn, Tony Ferraro and Trent Stubberfield inspecting the burnt fences at the Yarloop, Western Australia, dairy.

IN another blow for Western Australian bushfire victims, it has been revealed they may be liable for any compensation claims made by volunteers helping to clean up their properties and erect fences.

Last week, farmers in the Waroona-Harvey bushfire zone were advised to check for insurance cover before allowing volunteers to help with on-farm recovery efforts.

WAFarmers chief executive officer Stephen Brown warned about 50 farmers at a community meeting in the fire zone last Thursday, not to assume volunteers coming onto their properties to help re-erect fences or to clean up were automatically covered by insurance policies.

"Most farmers have public liability insurance and assume that will cover them if something happens to anyone on their property," Mr Brown said.

"But public liability insurance only covers common law, it doesn't cover statutory law which is things like Worksafe.

"There is a separate insurance product you can buy that does cover statutory law, but not many farmers have it."

Mr Brown said BlazeAid and most not-for-profit organisations supplying volunteers to help with the fire recovery effort would already have their own insurance cover.

"It's when you get a group of blokes turn up, who have decided on their own to help out, that you need to establish first whether they or you have adequate insurance cover should something go wrong," Mr Brown said.

"If one of them puts an auger through his foot you could end up having to deal with a Worksafe incident on top of the bushfire aftermath."

Yarloop, WA, dairyfarmer Tony Ferraro said as everybody had kilometres of fencing to do, with little man power, volunteers were needed.

"But volunteers aren't covered," he said.

"If someone hurts themselves fencing and they are not my employee, they are not covered under workers' compensation and they aren't covered under public liability insurance.

"This needs to be looked into because we all need the help and want the help, but the liability aspect concerns me."

Those using volunteer organisations to assist with fencing were covered, but Mr Ferraro said those "good blokes" who want to lend a hand won't be covered.

"I just worry about those good blokes coming to lend a hand," he said.

"Maybe the government needs to investigate this, as everyone is concerned about it."

Mr Ferraro said he watched 60 years of hard work and fencing burn in one night.

"We have a big job in front of us, but we are not the only ones,'' he said.

"I am happy I am alive, my family is safe and my dairy is still standing, but I lost 30 kilometres of fencing and our paddocks."

Mr Ferraro said his family stayed to defend their homes but could not save the rest of the farmland.

"We put our cattle on the green irrigated grass, so they are okay, some of them have sore eyes from the smoke but they are safe," he said.

"Now we are getting on with the job.

"We pulled down about 2km of ruined fencing in a morning, but we need help.

"Everyone has lost their fences so we are all in the same boat.

"The thing that concerns me is the fencing issue."

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