The Fire and Emergency Services Act (2005) SA governs the responsibilities of the Country Fire Service and provides requirements for the prevention, control and suppression of fires in South Australia. Several important amendments to the Act were made effective in March 2021, with aim to prevent fires caused by harvesting a flammable crop in dangerous conditions.
Compliance with Grain Harvesting Code of Practice
South Australia has a voluntary Grain Harvesting Code of Practice which outlines the conditions under which grain harvesting and handling should occur in the paddock, including operating grain harvesters, vehicles involved in grain transport, and grain dryers and augers.
The Fire and Emergency Services Act provides that an owner of private land must take reasonable steps to prevent and minimise any outbreak of fire on the land. A landowner may be taken to have breached this duty if it is proved the landowner was acting in breach of a relevant code of practice(s).
For grain producers, this suggests that compliance with the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice is required to avoid breaching their duty to prevent fires on private land. Breach of this duty can result in a penalty of up to $5,000.
Additionally, the Chief Officer of the SA CFS or SAMF, the local council or a fire prevention officer appointed by the council (‘authorised persons’), may serve landowners with a written notice to comply with legislative requirements, including those in the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice. A notice may also include directions to take measures to prevent or inhibit the outbreak and spread of fire, such as a direction to trim vegetation or establish fire or fuel breaks. Failure to comply with this notice may result in a penalty up to $10,000. Authorised persons may enter private land at any reasonable time for the purpose of administration, operation and enforcement of these requirements.
Power of direction by police officer
Police officers now have a power to direct that certain harvest activities cease if the activities may cause a fire and, because of weather conditions, the fire might get out of control. Before giving a direction, police must have regard to the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice as published by SA CFS. Failure to comply with a direction by police can result in a penalty of $5,000 or 1 year imprisonment, and subsequent offences can result in penalties up to $10,000.
Updates to Harvesting Code of Conduct Legislative Requirements
A stationary engine (auger) – see Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 35.
An operator must clear the space immediately around and above the engine to a distance of at least 4 metres, or a person who is able to control the engine is present at all times while the engine is in use. The operator must carry a shovel or rake, and a portable water spray in good working order, and ensure that engine or exhaust system complies with Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 29(2)-(3).
Internal combustion engines to harvest or move flammable crop – see Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 36.
An operator must carry a shovel or rake, and a portable water spray; and ensure that engine or exhaust system complies with Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 29(2)-(3).
Gas welding, soldering, metal cutting, grinding and abrasion – see Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 39
A grinder, welder, or any other cutting tool that produces sparks outsidecan only be used within the Fire Danger Season if a 10-metre space is cleared around the area, water or an appropriate extinguisher is at hand, and an operator who is able to control the appliance is always present while the appliance is in use. This is not permitted on a Total Fire Ban day unless you have a Schedule 10 Permit from your local council, which are usually reserved for emergency responses.
For reference; Fire and Emergency Services Regulation 29
(2) For the purposes of this Division, an engine or vehicle exhaust system complies with this Division if:
- all engine exhaust emitted by the engine or vehicle exits through the system; and
- the system, or a device or devices forming part of the system, is designed to prevent the escape of burning material from the system; and
- the system, or a device or devices forming part of the system, is designed to prevent heated parts of the system from coming into contact with flammable material; and
- the system is in good working order.
(3) For the purposes of subregulation (2)(a), engine exhaust emitted by a turbocharged engine, or a vehicle fitted with a turbocharged engine, by means of a device of a kind commonly known as a waste gate will be taken to exit through the exhaust system of the engine or vehicle.
Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a penalty of up to $5,000 (for first offence), or up to $10,000 for subsequent offence (per s 89 of the Act).
For more information on what you can do to reduce fire risk on your farm, go to the Know Your Code page.