Burnout competitions

The purpose of this Safety Alert is to highlight the proactive steps stakeholders can take in reducing the risks to competitors, event personnel, spectators and others whilst conducting burnout competitions.


Fourteen spectators received serious burns whilst watching a burnout competition, when a competitor’s vehicle experienced a flame-out through the exhaust.  The flame-out, approximately 3m in length, penetrated through the Armco barrier into the spectator zone.

Contributing Factors

Initial investigations indicate the following factors may have contributed to the incident:

  • spectator fence was too close to the burnout pad;
  • burnout pad’s impact barrier between the pad and spectators was not of a solid construction which allowed flames to pass through;
  • grass in the zone between the burnout pad and spectator fence caught fire.

Action required

  • Competition organisers should conduct a site specific risk assessment to determine appropriate separation distances between the vehicles, spectators and other event personnel.
  • Impact barriers separating spectators and other event personnel should be fixed in place, and be of solid construction of an appropriate height.
  • Dry grass and other flammables objects in the clearance zones should be removed prior to competition commencement. Flammables, including paper and rubber residues should be actively managed throughout the competition.

Risk Assessments

Burnout competitions are considered a high risk activity.  Businesses and community based motor sports organisations responsible for planning and conducting burnout competitions should review current processes, including:

Using the “How to Manage Work Health & Safety Risks” code of practice as a guide, undertake site specific hazard identification of the burnout pad area and surrounds. Conduct a risk assessment of each hazard. The risk assessment must be specific to the site where the competition is to be held.

Identify appropriate control measures for each hazard, and ensure they are implemented and reviewed where necessary as competition progresses.

Before competition starts, develop, document and implement a safe work method statement (SWMS) for the burnout competition in consultation with the people affected (e.g. event personnel, fire responders, competitors, media). The SWMS should include:

  • All the hazards identified, risk assessed and controls developed and implemented.
  • Be clear about who is responsible for implementing and reviewing controls as competition progresses to ensure they are working as planned.  Don’t wait until something goes wrong.
  • Identify what training and/or qualifications are required for specific roles.
  • Ensure fire responders have appropriate training and wear fire rated PPE.
  • Ensure qualified first aid personnel are present.
  • Ensure every relevant person (workers/volunteers/others) working in the competition zone are inducted into the SWMS, and sign off on it to show they have read and understood the SWMS before competition commences.

Once the above-mentioned documentation is in place, make sure hazards, risks and SWMS reviews are undertaken prior to each subsequent competition, as things may have changed.

Burnout pad

The burnout pad should be constructed of bitumen or concrete, and be well maintained, and of a suitable size.  The pad should be swept clean of debris to reduce flying objects.  Debris fencing should be installed to reduce the risk of flying objects. Appropriate impact barriers should be installed and exclusion zone areas should be maintained to remove flammable material.

Competition Rules

Review and/or set rules to ensure drivers and passengers wear appropriate, fire-rated personal protective equipment (PPE) during competition.

Review and/or set safety rules for competition vehicles, and ensure appropriate scrutineering of vehicles pre-event by experienced, qualified personnel.  Increased technical inspection of purpose-built exhibition burnout vehicles should be considered.

Further information


Code of Practice

Information bulletin

Other guidance


This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.