The need for business transition
Protecting the environment is a major area of activity for governments and business, particularly as we face complex pollution and waste management issues that can affect human health and sensitive ecosystems.
The Victorian Government has been working systematically to modernise the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in order to meet Victoria’s environment and human health challenges. The government response to the EPA Inquiry details the suite of reforms for the overall transformation of the EPA to a world class environmental regulator. It is important to note that these are the first major reforms since the EPA was formed in 1971.
The implementation of the reforms seeks to ensure that the:
> EPA will protect Victorians’ health and their environment, preventing and reducing harmful effects of pollution and waste.
> EPA will deliver efficient, proportionate and consistent regulation which is vital for economic prosperity by ensuring Victoria is an attractive place to invest, work, live and visit.
In many respects, the reforms establish a stronger emphasis on preventing environmental harm and foreseeable hazards and risks.
Figure 1. Summary of the EPA reforms and business regulation
The need for businesses to be prepared
The process highlights the on-going need for businesses to identify compliance issues and risks and be ready to transition to new requirements in a timely and considered manner.
The Victorian Environment Protection Act has now been updated and includes new provisions for governance arrangements.
The reform agenda will also bring about significant changes as to how businesses and organisations will be regulated in regard to environmental risk. A key change is the introduction of a ‘General Duty’ that will be used to strengthen EPA capability to prevent environmental harm.
The introduction of a General Duty will involve the use of ‘Codes of Practice’, an approach that is already widely used within Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation and regulation. For example, in Victoria OHS Law and Code of Practice provides practical guidance on how to comply with relevant regulation. The VIC EPA now makes it clear that this approach provides a preferred model to apply in regard to environmental regulation in Victoria.
Adherence to Codes of Practice will certainly involve sites that require EPA Licensing and Works Approvals. Beyond such sites, the VIC EPA is looking to create a register of businesses with activities that have a regulatory significance.
Initially the register may be based on the dangerous goods notifications register managed by WorkSafe, which could involve up to 2,800 businesses. The EPA is also looking to register other businesses that have a potential higher risk profile, examples of which include dry cleaners, electroplaters, petrol stations and non-intensive agricultural businesses.
The range of activities requiring works approvals and licensing is also set to be expanded. The current recommendations involve potentially expanding licensing to:
> Waste companies
> Transfer stations
> Agriculture based businesses
The EPA has put in place a five-year strategy to implement the reform recommendations.
Guidance and support for businesses
Helping companies to be prepared and ready for the reforms is an essential part of the process.
Equilibrium is well positioned to support businesses to assess and prepare for impending regulatory changes. Our depth of experience relating to environmental and OHS risk management is at the forefront when it comes to identifying and preventing harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste.
Equilibrium’s knowledge of risk analysis and developing risk management strategies is founded on working to meet compliance requirements of Environmental and OHS regulations across Australia. Our experience covers leading projects across Australia.
Regular updates on reform implementation program are available at https://engage.vic.gov.au/reform-epa
Contact Nicholas Harford for more information about Equilibrium’s services and how we can support your readiness for the reforms:
Mobile: 0419 993 234 or firstname.lastname@example.org