As of July 1 2021, changes to Victorian environmental laws come into effect, and could impact the way your construction site operates.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria has announced key changes to the new Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 which will see the General Environmental Duty (GED) now enforceable by law.
What exactly does the change mean for the construction industry?
Basically, the EPA now has more power to issue stronger penalties to those who breach the EPA act. It holds polluters to account, creating a level playing field so organisations doing the wrong thing no longer have a leg up over those playing by the rules.
What Is The GED?
The GED applies to all Victorians, and states that you must reduce the risk of your activities potentially harming the environment or human health through pollution or waste.
Think of it as like an OHS policy, but for the wider environment.
For businesses already effectively managing their environmental risk, these new laws will see almost no change to daily operations. In this case, the GED will essentially act like a checklist, clearly outlining the risk management responsibilities of each business.
For example, the GED will regulate the following practices:
- business activities that produce noise, odour or runoff to stormwater
- the storage, use and disposal of liquids and chemicals
- management of wastes and the choice of transporter or receiver of wastes.
Impact Of EPA On The Construction Industry
Chances are, your construction organisation is already complying with the majority of the GED without even realising. The model is underpinned by risk reduction that most companies implement as part of a safe and responsible practice.
But given the hefty penalties attached to the new legislation, it’s worthwhile ensuring your company activity falls in line with the GED.
It is recommended companies conduct an internal review to ensure compliance, including:
- Revise (or implement) risk assessments to identify any potential risks to health and the environment associated with business activities
- Update policies, procedures and environmental management plans to capture proactive steps to eliminate, or otherwise reduce risks where practical.
- Conduct a review of company activities and consider seeking technical advice on how to minimise risks of harm ‘so far as reasonably practicable’.
- With regard to contractors – ensure all parties are aware of their responsibility to undertaking compliance with the GED, and clearly outline how this is managed and facilitated.
- Provide information, instruction, supervision and training to all employees to enable them to comply
A full rundown on what the changes mean to Victorian businesses can be found on the EPA website.
Unlike other Australian States and Territories, it is now a criminal offence for a business to breach the GED in Victoria. The penalties are quite substantial too – up to $363,000 for individuals and as high as $3.2 million for corporations caught committing serious breaches. There are even harsher penalties for reckless or intentional breaches of the GED.