Tue 29 Jan 2019

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is looking to work more collaboratively with businesses across Victoria

The Victorian Government undertook a public inquiry into EPA and its final conclusions were released in 2016. This independent review investigated how increases to Victoria’s population, economy and infrastructural pressure since the Environment Protection Act 1970 came into effect required changes to the state’s environmental regulation. As a result of the Inquiry the Government supported a legislative overhaul of the 1970 Act, and the implementation of new legislation will form part of EPA’s transformation.

The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 will commence on 1 July 2020, and will give EPA enhanced powers and tools to prevent risks to the environment and human health as well as the ability to issue stronger sanctions and penalties which hold environmental polluters to account. Central to the new legislation is the introduction of a general environmental duty to minimise risks to human health and the environment. A system that seeks to prevent harm from pollution and waste better enables EPA to meet the challenges of the future.

In implementing a general duty, it was recognized that education on how industry can meet their obligations is important, and EPA has a responsibility to develop guidance to help businesses  understand how they can comply.

EPA has established a team dedicated to supporting the needs of businesses in Victoria in understanding their environmental obligations. Instead of publishing prescriptive guidance about harm, the Industry Guidance Unit (IGU) approach is more consultative, meeting with stakeholders undertaking particular activities, or target industry sectors, before pen is even put to paper.

This is to build a common understanding between ourselves and industry on how to manage risks and impacts to human health and the environment. We know that it is important for EPA to understand the practicalities facing industry in determining what mitigation measures and risk reduction controls they could use.

We will adopt an approach that emphasised preventative behaviours, and that supports industry to apply a risk management process to plan their actions.

Therefore, a foundational piece has been developed- Assessing and controlling risk: a guide for business that introduces a risk management framework. This guide incorporates easy to understand diagrams for assessing and controlling your risks, and can be found on EPA’s website here [https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/our-work/publications/publication/2018/may/1695].

The guide outlines the following 4 steps in controlling hazards and risks, and is a continuous process which returns to step 1 after a control has been put in place.

  1. Identify hazards: What hazards are present that might cause harm
  2. Assess risks: What is the level or severity of risk, based on likelihood and consequence
  3. Implement controls: What measures are suitable and available to the business to eliminate or reduce a risk
  4. Check controls: Review controls to ensure they are effective.

We explain each of these steps in detail in the subsequent sections of the guide, as well as key concepts relevant to the assessment process and an example of a risk matrix.

The approach to assessing risk and adopting a management approach would be familiar to most businesses who follow the approach under OHS requirements. In addition, this guide makes many practical suggestions for businesses, such as speaking with staff about their experiences with hazards and controls and what does or doesn’t work.

Our goal is that Assessing and controlling risk can inform and help you develop your own workplace strategies. The guide has a particular relevance for small business, which we recognise may need additional support. The inclusion of a hazard and risk register template for example may help low risk businesses understand their risk profile, however high risk operations may need to adopt a more complex register.

You can see an example of how the risk management approach has been applied in recently published guidance Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials (publication 1667.2).

We welcome your feedback on how you feel EPA’s advice to industry could be improved, or topics you would like to see addressed. Contact us by emailing Industry.Guidance@epa.vic.gov.au – or you can learn more about the work we are doing here – https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/business-and-industry/how-to-manage-your-environmental-impact

EPA Victoria (EPA) is an independent statutory authority under the Environment Protection Act 2017. 

CCF / EPA Workshops

In partnership with the EPA, CCF Victoria is hosting a series of workshops focused on the Victorian Government’s new environment protection laws, and how they will impact the operations of local contractor businesses. These workshops will also allow attendees the opportunity to participate in discussion on the guidelines being developed to underpin the new laws.

The EPA is actively seeking your input. As an industry representative of your local area, it is critical that you don’t miss your opportunity to contribute!

CLICK HERE For more information.