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Use of power tools on total fire ban days

The information below provides a state-by-state guide to assist members understand their state or territory’s requirements, restrictions and prohibitions on the external use of power tools on total fire ban days.

In this article

  • State-by-state fire ban guide
  • Are you seeking tailored solutions or safety advice?

Significant penalties, including jail, prohibitions and fines, apply for not adhering to prescribed restrictions on the use of power tools on total fire ban days, so you should ensure you understand your state or territory’s requirements. The information is not exhaustive and members are advised to contact your state’s fire authority for further clarification, if required. 

It is also worth noting that there may be additional requirements or restrictions that may apply to the outdoor use of power tools in declared fire danger periods.

State-by-state fire ban guide

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
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A Total Fire Ban is declared the day before it comes into effect and typically lasts 24 hours, but can be extended or reduced as required. These are announced on the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) website, social media and through local ACT radio and television networks.

On a declared total fire ban day a welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas cutter or similar cannot be used unless a permit is obtained from ACT Fire and Rescue and the conditions or restrictions of an issued permit are followed. (These are typically issued for emergency purposes only.)

Machinery, tractors, slashers, excavators or similar with an engine also should not be used unless any potential ignition source is more than 3m away from flammable material and reasonable steps have been taken to prevent any fire escaping.

See the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) website for more information.

Queensland
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Local Fire Bans

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) can declare a Local Fire Ban over some, or all, of one or more Local Government Areas and can cover some, or all, types of works for any period of time. 

State of Fire Emergency

This alert can be declared across some or all of Queensland. These declarations are published in the Queensland Government Gazette and advertise the period and area to which the emergency applies. All permits are cancelled and further unique or special conditions may be imposed.

These alerts are reported via local radio, television networks, newspaper, local government websites and social media.

Power tools may be used on fire ban days, but QFES encourages people to use these with extreme care and ensure adequate equipment is available to extinguish any fire that may start.

See the Queensland government’s Rural Fire Service website for more information. 

New South Wales
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Total fire ban days are typically declared the previous day it is due to take effect via local radio and television networks, social media, road-side signage and the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website.

On a total fire ban day a welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas cutter or similar cannot be used in an external/outdoor area unless the works are contained within a fully enclosed structure.

Machinery, tractors, slashers, excavators or similar with an engine should not be used unless due consideration is given to the needs and requirements of the operation against the Total Fire Ban.

Some exemptions are applied to Total Fire Bans and they are detailed in the NSW Government Gazette each time a ban is declared. Alternatively ,you can apply for specific exemption with the RFS.

See the NSW Rural Fire Service website for more information. 

Northern Territory
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A fire ban is declared for a particular Fire Protection Zone. These are announced through ABC local radio and television networks, social media and roadside signage where available. All permits issued are suspended during a fire ban.

A welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas/mechanical cutter or similar, are permitted to be used on fire ban days, unless the apparatus or machine was identified as part of the Fire Ban declaration as not being permitted to be used.

See the Northern Territory SecureNT website for more information.

South Australia
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Restrictions during fire danger season

During the fire danger season, you cannot operate appliances such as electric welders, mechanical cutting tools (e.g. drop saws), gas appliances, an angle grinder or other mechanical grinding tool in the open air unless: 

  • the space immediately around and above the appliance is cleared of all flammable material to a distance of at least 4 metres, and
  • a portable water spray in good working order is at hand, and
  • a person who is able to control the appliance is present at all times while the appliance is in use or alight.

A failure to adhere to these restrictions may incur a maximum penalty of $5000. A repeat or subsequent offence may cost you $10,000.

Restrictions during total fire ban days

In addition to the restrictions during the fire danger season, there may be occasions where total fire ban days are declared. These declarations are often declared during extreme heat conditions and are broadcast to the public via radio.

On days where a total fire ban has been declared, a person must not operate any appliances such as electric welders, mechanical cutting tools (e.g. drop saws), gas appliances, an angle grinder or other mechanical grinding tool unless they have obtained a Schedule 10 permit from their local council. Please note that these permits are generally only issued for emergency purposes.

There are significant penalties including a maximum penalty of $10,000 or two years imprisonment for a first offence. For a second or subsequent offence, a maximum penalty of $20,000 or imprisonment of four years may apply.

See the South Australian Country Fire Service website for more information. 

Tasmania
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A Total Fire Ban declaration typically lasts 24 hours and can be imposed or revoked at any time. A Total Fire Ban is declared by ABC Radio or emergency broadcaster, local radio and television updates, social media and the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) website.

A welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas/mechanical cutter or similar cannot be used unless a ‘Hot Works’ permit has been granted by the State Fire Controller (emergency only).

Machinery, tractors, generators, excavators or similar cannot be used unless the Total Fire Ban expressly notes machinery or vehicles can continue to be used.

See the Tasmanian Fire Service website for more information.

Victoria
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Total Fire Bans are typically declared either across wider districts or by each municipality by 5pm the previous day, but can be declared or revoked at any time. Total Fire Bans are announced via local radio and television networks, ABC radio, social media and the CFA website.

A welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas cutter or similar cannot be used in an outdoor area unless a Section 40 permit has been issued for specific works to be undertaken, the Section 40 permit was issued by CFA Regional or MFB District office, and the Section 40 permit conditions are adhered to.

Machinery, tractors, slashers, excavators or similar with an engine cannot be used unless:

  • consideration is given to if the use can be delayed or avoided
  • the works are more than 9ms away from crops, grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation
  • is free from faults and mechanical defects that could cause an outbreak of fire
  • is fitted with a spark arrester (muffler) in working order, a turbocharger or exhaust-aspirated air cleaner
  • carries fire suppression equipment comprising either:
    • at least one knapsack spray pump, in working order, fully charged with water, with a capacity of not less than 9 litres, or
    • at least one water (stored pressure) fire extinguisher, in working order, fully charged with water and maintained at the correct pressure, with a capacity of not less than 9 litres.

The use of chainsaws on total fire ban days should also be avoided wherever possible as the risk of starting fires is extremely high and the impact of fire on these days may be much greater. If the work is essential, follow the guidelines for the Fire Danger Period, which prescribes certain conditions be met.

See the Victorian CFA website for more information. 

Western Australia
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The Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) declares a Total Fire Ban across one or more local government boundaries the evening before it is due to take effect and may be imposed or revoked at any time. This advertised with ABC Radio, television networks, roadside signage and variable road signs, as well as social media and the EmergencyWA website. 

Local government can also restrict or prohibit certain activities along with a fire ban.

A welder, grinder, burner, soldering iron, gas cutter or similar cannot be used unless Regulation 24E to 24J of the Bush Fire Regulations 1954 are followed, which includes some conditions that must be met to accompany the use of the tool externally.

Exemptions are available for some works under certain conditions.

See the DFES website for more information. 

Are you seeking tailored solutions or safety advice?

HIA Safety has a team of qualified specialists who understand the residential building industry. Our team provides one-on-one tailored consultancy and can develop unique solutions to meet your business’ needs. This ensures that you can have the correct systems and processes in place to best protect your staff, PCBUs, subcontractors, clients and your business.

 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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