In Dann v Port Sorell Bowls Club[1], a volunteer at a Bowls Club function was burnt while cooking on the club BBQ. The volunteer sued the Bowls Club in negligence for his injuries, receiving over a million dollars in compensation. The Bowls Club was found to have breached its duty of care to the volunteer, who was regarded under the Tasmanian statute as a “worker”.

The club had a makeshift method involving a ceramic mug that was used to collect the fat from the barbeque, but during cooking, it overflowed and caught fire. KD, when trying to remove it, suffered burns to his hand and was left with scarring and restriction of movement, and his working capacity was impaired.

The regular users of the BBQ were aware of the ceramic mug method and there was a direction in black marker on the BBQ lid about using an empty fat collection vessel. However, the volunteer was not instructed about use of the BBQ and the lid with the instructions was left in the shed.

The Court found that (at [121]):

The Club breached its duty by failing to ensure that a suitable container, placed in a safe position was used, and that the receptacle was empty before it was used.  It failed to provide adequate instructions in this regard to the volunteers working on the barbeque and people responsible for setting it up.  The Club ought to have made provision for a fat fire by providing an oven mitt or heat proof gloves as part of the cooking equipment.  Further, the Club failed to provide adequate instructions in the case of a fat fire, such as the need to clear people away, information about the location of the fire extinguishers and fire blanket, and the use of those to extinguish any fire continuing after the gas had been turned off, and an instruction not to attempt to move the fat container.

This decision highlights the need for community organisations to put safety procedures in place for all volunteer activities. They need to take care with the set up and maintenance of potentially dangerous equipment as well as undertake proper instruction of volunteers before its use.

[1] Dann v Port Sorell Bowls Club Inc [2020] TASSC 47