ABOUT 400 bushfire volunteers have registered for training courses conducted by the Shire of Kojonup and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), with an additional 50 new volunteers also signing up.
The training course utilises a new module created by DFES to train volunteer firefighters, with the modules expected to be made available online in the future.
The large number of registrations in the region comes after the State government introduced changes to Western Australia's Work Health Safety (WHS) Act 2020 and Regulations, which passed through parliament in November last year.
A change in the act's regulations, in which volunteers are classified as 'workers', means that all registered bushfire volunteers will be deemed to be employees of their respective local governments and therefore have a duty of care with respect to their safety, training, performance and compliance.
Shire of Kojonup chief executive officer Grant Thompson said he was "extremely pleased" with the turnout of Kojonup bushfire volunteers who responded to the call for training.
"Changes to the WHS legislation have been a discussion point recently across the State, but the shire runs these courses to give our volunteers the knowledge and skills to be safe," Mr Thompson said.
"It really is testament to the volunteer culture in Kojonup that we have so many people attending this training, as they don't do this for the legislation, they do it in recognition of the need to be safe and protect the community, their families and businesses from fire events."
Mr Thompson said while changes to the WHS legislation were important and needed to be understood, it had always been the Shire's obligation to undertake everything so far as reasonably practicable to make sure its community and volunteers are kept safe.
"As far as I'm concerned, this training really is a refresher course for those with the most experience, but gives the new volunteers the awareness and skills to remain safe at a fire ground," Mr Thompson said.
"The attendance gives the Shire the confidence that we have documented our volunteers' competency."
Mr Thompson said the Shire would continue to work with the individual local volunteer brigades to review its emergency management processes and continuously improve their safe operation so that they are compliant under the WHS legislation.
Another training course for women will be run by the Shire of Kojonup next Monday, November 29, with 20 already registered, and further smaller sessions also to be scheduled as required.
"This demonstrates Kojonup's commitment to doing the right thing when it counts the most," Mr Thompson said.
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