With all the new rank and insignia with the SES I have a question. If someone is deemed not ‘job ready’, they are a part of a team, and something goes wrong where does that leave them legally? Likewise if they are not job ready and lead a team and again something goes wrong, where legally do they sit? They may have all the qualifications but because SAP has not ‘rolled up’ their qualification to the R&I requirements or the qualification is coded wrong in SAP they are deemed ‘not job ready’. I am hoping you can clarify so that the volunteers are protected and can make an informed choice about going into the field and understand where they sit legally.

This is the job ready explanation on the EOS site:

Courses / Skills to be attained All Members Member

Induction (staff/volunteers)

Flood Rescue Awareness

Beacon familiarisation

Introduction to Operate Communications Equipment

Introduction to Drive Operational Vehicles

Service Experience

Successful completion of all components.

Other Requirements

Meets behaviour and attendance criteria and is approved by their Controller/Manager.

Local Incident Control Centre familiarisation.

A lot of people have the qualifications, however due to coding or qualifications ‘dropping off’ the system, they are not ‘job ready’ in a report we received this week. My concern is that if they are not deemed ‘job ready’ by the service, but hold the qualification and something goes wrong what will happen to them legally?  A number of units have discovered that they only have a small handful of job ready people, for example [one unit] has about 40 members, but only three job ready

A number of members have raised this and been told that it will be ok, we just keep doing what we are doing… but we all thought that an emergency vehicle was an emergency vehicle and could use the turn arounds on the highway until that terrible accident and discovered that legally there is a different definition to an emergency vehicle than we all thought.

The short answer

It will be ok, just keep doing what you have been doing.

The long answer

Answering legal questions in the abstract is always difficult.  One needs to try to think about what sort of thing going wrong is contemplated.  I suppose there are two possibilities, one is that the member is injured, or they injure someone else.  Given the basic skills in this list it is hard to see how having or not having these basic skills pose a risk to someone other than the operator.  From the list the most practical sounds like ‘Flood Rescue Awareness’ so let us assume a member is injured during a flood rescue.

The legal consequences will be nothing at all. First compensation for that member is governed by the workers compensation scheme in NSW – and that is a no-fault scheme.  That is the applicant doesn’t have to show that someone was negligent and the insurer can not reduce damages for contributory negligence.

Putting that aside, courts are interested in what happened –assuming negligence was an issue, for example a person drowns during an unsuccessful flood rescue attempt. The court would be concerned with who did what, not what licence they had.  Having a qualification does not prove that your actions in a particular case were or were not reasonable.

Further courts understand that there are new systems and that they have teething problems.  If the qualification was an issue and the person can show that they did have it and it was an administrative error that caused the qualification to ‘drop off’ the list, then it was an administrative error. An administrative error does not cause anyone to get injured.

Anyone who calls the SES is calling the SES, not a particular member.  The SES responds and the SES is responsible for the consequences of the response (malicious misbehaviour excepted).  If there is liability, it belongs to the SES.

The reference to the accident on the M1 motorway is misplaced – see Court of Appeal dismisses appeal by RFS tanker driver involved in fatal collision (October 13, 2017).  The RFS driver was not convicted because he used a u-turn bay that said ‘no u-turn; emergency vehicles excepted’ when there was no emergency.  Further, he had the necessary licence but that did not mean that his driving was not negligent. He was convicted because he failed to take reasonable care and caused someone else’s death.  If an SES member manages to kill a bystander, the issue will not be whether he or she had the qualifications listed above.  The issue will be what happened and why.  In the RFS case the driver failed to give way to a vehicle travelling 110km/h, for no good reason.

Whilst it is true that an SES vehicle is not an emergency vehicle unless there is an emergency that means you may get a ticket if you use one of those u-turn bays just because it is convenient and not urgent. If you are in an accident and kill someone, that will be the least of your concerns.


The ‘job ready’ requirements are instructions to members and controllers to ensure that people have the basic qualifications to join a team.  But there’s a new system and like most systems it appears to be having teething problems. When it comes to making teams the real issue is ‘are the members qualified’ (ie do they have the qualifications) not ‘does the administrative system work’.   The failure of the system to pick up the qualifications has no legal significance.  In the event anything goes wrong and in the unlikely event the matter got before a court, the issue will always be ‘what happened’ not an obsession with administrative technicalities.