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Bowling club case reminds us of the duty of care owed to volunteers

09 November 2020

The Supreme Court of Tasmania has held that a local bowling club was negligent after one of its volunteers was burned by boiling fat spilled from a barbeque.

A bowling club member, Kraig Dann, noticed that a ceramic mug was being used to catch fat under a barbeque plate. The mug overflowed and the fat caught fire. Mr Dann, concerned that the mug would explode, tried to retrieve the mug. The mug caught the edge of the barbeque plate and spilled boiling fat onto Mr Dann’s hand, which was badly burned. 

The Court held that the bowling club had breached its duty of care to Mr Dann. The club breached its duty by failing to:

  • provide an adequate container to catch the fat, check the container was empty before the barbeque was used, or provide an oven mitt or heatproof gloves, and
  • provide adequate instructions to the volunteers setting up the barbeque or instructions on what to do in case of a fat fire 

Following the injury, Mr Dann required extensive medical treatment and may not be able to work for at least two years. Mr Dann was awarded over $1 million in damages to cover future loss of earnings and medical expenses. 

This decision highlights the need for community organisations to put safety procedures in place for all volunteer activities, and to take particular care with the set up and maintenance of potentially dangerous equipment, including barbeques.  

Dann v Port Sorell Bowls Club [2020] TASSC 47

For more information about the duty of care owed to volunteers, see our resources on volunteers.