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Environmental Risk Management during COVID-19

  • Market Insight 5 September 2021 5 September 2021
  • Asia Pacific

The commencement of amendments to the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic) on 1 July 2021 introduced a General Environmental Duty (GED) in Victoria.

The introduction of the GED in Victoria serves as a timely reminder for businesses to review their environmental risk management processes to ensure that they are actively taking actions to prevent environmental harm. This is especially important given the changing risk profiles due to COVID-19 related health restrictions in place in many jurisdictions, which often mean that:

  • operations must be reduced or temporarily ceased;
  • fewer personnel can be on the ground to oversee operations;
  • personnel with the correct environmental expertise are not available on site or at all; and
  • regular internal  site inspections or audits cannot be carried out, which might have otherwise identified environmental risks or non-compliances.

The GED, which also exists in other states including Queensland and Northern Territory, requires duty holders to understand the risks from their business activities on human health and the environment and to take steps to address them as far as reasonably practicable.

Reasonably practicable means putting in controls that are proportionate to the risk. It relates to the chance of harm occurring and potential impacts on the environment. It also relates to what controls are available, their cost, and considers what an industry generally knows about the risk and control options.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority has released useful guidance material in relation to risk assessment and recommends a 4 step adaptive management approach to risk.  We consider the EPAs 4 steps below with some practical tips for businesses.

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