In this article, we cover the topic of environmental compliance in Australia. In our industry we often refer to compliance; compliance with regulatory requirements, compliance with client or stakeholder requirements, compliance with industry best practice, and compliance with environmental management systems.
But what does environmental compliance actually mean, why should you be concerned with it and what does it entail? This article sets out to answer these questions for you.
What is Environmental Compliance?
Compliance is defined as ‘conformity in fulfilling official requirements’. That is exactly what environmental compliance means; conformity in fulfilling environmental requirements. It is the adherence to all relevant environmental laws, regulations, standards and other requirements that apply to your organisation’s activities, services and products.
The importance of being environmentally compliant isn’t just about being green. It is essential to ensure the success of your operations by limiting your exposure to penalties and public scrutiny. Furthermore, identifying opportunities for improvement.
What is the Purpose of Environmental Compliance?
One of the most straightforward arguments for environmental compliance is that you have to do it; either it is the law, your approval conditions or your contract requirements. Government agencies enforce regulations and failure to meet their regulatory requirements can lead to fines/prosecutions which can be costly.
However, there are other reasons that should encourage you to adhere to environmental compliance:
– Promoting environmental compliance and best practice can attract new customers who want to buy products and services from an environmentally friendly business.
– Reducing the environmental impact of your business will improve the sustainability of your operations for longer term success.
– Promoting your employees to take an interest in your operations and environmental compliance. Failing to do so could negatively impact on the business as a whole.
Environmental laws and regulations relevant to your organisation will depend on your operations and location. In Australia, the Commonwealth, States/Territories and Local governments jointly administer environmental protection laws.
In Queensland, you and your business have a legal duty to meet general environmental protection obligations. This applies to all businesses and citizens. The Environmental Protection Act 1994 lists obligations and offences to prevent environmental harm, nuisances and contamination.
Environmental Compliance Assessment
An assessment of your environmental compliance with relevant legislation can be complicated. We have put together an environmental compliance assessment checklist below to assist you with considering your compliance obligations.
An environmental compliance audit can be used to assess your compliance as discussed in the section below.
We would recommend engaging Applied Environment & Safety to undertake an assessment of your compliance with relevant environmental requirements. Examples of compliance assessments that we undertaken are detailed below.
Compliance Through an Environment Audit
An environmental audit can be used to investigate the compliance status your operations and/or extent of your liability. This process is a systematic evaluation focusing on current operations and management procedures and processes. Assurance through auditing verification and reporting programs can be used to identify gaps and limitations.
An environmental audit can help to assess the nature and extent of your current impacts on the environment and compliance with regulatory requirements. This will enable you to:
– Identify how you could reduce your impact
– Prioritise environmental management activities
– Demonstrate your accountability to the government, customers and shareholders.
Environmental Compliance Australia Examples
Hereunder are some practical examples of how environmental compliance is applied to a number of different industry sectors that we service.
Power & Transmission
Applied Environment & Safety provided environmental support in the early contractor involvement (ECI) stage of the ElectraNet Eyre Peninsular transmission line upgrade project. This project involved constructing a new 270 km transmission line from Cultana to Port Lincoln in South Australia, as well as major construction works on substations.
Specific environmental management sub-plans were developed to ensure compliance with legislation, project-specific approvals and client contract specifications. This included soil, water, vegetation, waste, landholder and cultural heritage sub-plans.
Permit applications were also developed to ensure compliance with South Australian legislation. This included Water Affecting Activities Permits for the construction of waterway crossings.
Onshore Oil & Gas
Applied Environment & Safety regularly provides health, safety and environmental management support to Buru Energy. Buru Energy is an onshore oil and gas company based in Western Australia.
Recently we were engaged by Buru Energy to undertake an audit of their Health, Safety and Environmental Management System against relevant legislation. This included undertaking a review and gap analysis of their current management system documents. An audit report with recommendations to ensure compliance was developed following the audit.
Roads & Transports
Applied Environment & Safety, provided environmental compliance support to Hazell Bros during the construction of the Bruce Highway upgrade project located between Gympie and Maryborough in southeast Queensland.
At the commencement of construction, an audit was undertaken to ensure compliance with the requirements in the Environmental Management Plan. Then monthly inspections were undertaken to ensure ongoing compliance. This included inspection of sediment and erosion controls, waste and water management, and hazardous substance storage and use. Short reports were developed following the inspections for submission to the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
If you have any further questions or queries about environmental compliance or your project needs an environmental compliance audit, contact us.
Applied Environment & Safety have been nominated for the Noosa Biosphere Awards 2021. We believe in leading by example and promoting environmental sustainability. This is demonstrated through our commitment within our business as well as seeking continuous improvement for our clients.
Applied Environment & Safety are based in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Noosa is recognised globally for its outstanding biodiversity values and rich cultural history.
About the Noose Biosphere Awards
The Noosa Biosphere Awards celebrates the individuals, businesses and organisations implementing local solutions to the global challenges of sustainable development and addressing climate change. The Awards recognise people who are making a difference in the community and are championing environmental and sustainability excellence.
In 2007, the Noosa Shire was awarded Biosphere Reserve status under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in recognition of the ongoing efforts of the community to manage Noosa’s land, waters and wildlife sustainably while maintaining a balance between people and nature. The Noosa Biosphere is one of only four recognised UNESCO biosphere reserves in Australia and is part of a network of more than 700 sites worldwide.
Our nomination for the awards are linked to our company values and business goals which are to promote environmental sustainability both within our company and for our clients.
Our Company Values
Our company values are making a difference through profit, people and place.
Profit: Sustainable company that adds value to our clients leading to positive environmental and safety cultures
People: Provide opportunities both within our company and to our wider community
Place: Respect the environment and community of the locations of our projects and our business practices
Our Business Goals
We have set business goals to align with our company values as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals in particular:
– Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth
– Responsible consumption and production
– Climate action
Our business goals are detailed below.
Build a Local Client Base
Following our carbon emissions reduction goal, we are focussing on building our local client base. Over the past five years, we have built a successful small business based on environmental consulting for large construction projects across Australia. Although this has been successful for us, we want to sustainably grow our business and provide more benefits to our local region, therefore we are focused on building on local opportunities.
Through building a local client base, we are seeking to provide opportunities for local, sustainable employment and collaborations. In particular, we are focused on employment diversity to suit different work-life circumstances, such as university students completing studies and return to work parents. We currently employ part-time and casual workers to ensure inclusive opportunities for local employment.
Lead by Example
Although we are a small company, we believe that by leading by example and promoting environmental sustainability we are not only ensuring the long-term viability of our business, we are also setting an example for sustainable economic growth for other small businesses in our region and broader.
We will continue on our journey and seek new opportunities for using environmental science to safeguard natural ecosystems through the projects we support for our clients. As well as promoting innovative approaches to economic development through our business practices to enhance the relationship between our people and our environment for our biosphere and wider.
Want to learn more about who we are and our core companies values, click here.
Noose Biosphere awards winners will be announced Tuesday, 2 November at the Noosa Biosphere Gala.
Environmental Rehabilitation Management – An Introduction
Environmental rehabilitation means restoration of disturbed areas and seeks to reverse negative environmental impacts. Environmental disturbance or damage can happen at a local, landscape or region scale by many activities including mining, agriculture, urbanisation or other development. There can be various negative effects of this disturbance including biodiversity loss, soil and water contamination, and impacts on other ecosystem systems.
The objective of environmental rehabilitation is to ensure that all environmental aspects are adequately addressed to minimise ongoing negative impacts from disturbance.
In this article we explain the following foundational topics:
A common application of environmental rehabilitation is the restoration of disturbed land following vegetation clearing and/or soil disturbance. Rehabilitation should ensure that disturbed areas are restored, leaving a stable environment that is conducive to the establishment of landscapes characteristic to the area.
The main aim of land disturbance rehabilitation is to provide a protective soil cover through vegetation cover. Vegetation acts to reduce dust and wind erosion, suppress weed infestations and provide protection to exposed soil surfaces from raindrop impacts and erosion processes. This then allows for further productive ecosystems on stable landforms.
Specific Rehabilitation Requirements
Some industries, particularly those with potential significant or long term environmental impacts, will have specific rehabilitation requirements including the development and approval of specific rehabilitation management plans.
In Queensland under the Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018, the State Government has established the requirement for a life-of-mine plan (i.e. from commencement through to surrender) through a Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan.
Describe the intended post-mining land use or non-use management area
Outline rehabilitation techniques for achieving the post-mining land use or management measures for a non-use management area
Map where mining and rehabilitation activities are forecast to occur
Set binding (enforceable), time-based milestones for actions that achieve progressive rehabilitation or management outcomes
Rehabilitation is an important part of a project’s environmental performance and is effectively considered as another component of operations. Rehabilitation should not be considered as something that begins towards the end of the project, but rather a process that begins in the planning phase and is progressively sequenced throughout the life of the operation.
Why Environmental Rehabilitation is Important?
Effective rehabilitation planning and implementation can be a ‘win/win’ for Project Managers and stakeholders. When executed well, it can:
Reduce financial risk and liabilities
Reduce costs in relation to environmental bonds / security deposits
Improve regulator and stakeholder confidence.
Early planning can also reduce future costs by ensuring operations are conducted in a way that facilitates and maximises the efficiency of rehabilitation.
Poor rehabilitation can lead to environmental, social and economic legacy issues, which may require regulatory intervention and result in financial uncertainty, reputational damage, potential liability and difficulties obtaining approvals and finance for future projects.
What is a Rehabilitation Management Plan?
A Rehabilitation Management Plan describes the rehabilitation objectives, strategies and actions that are necessary to address rehabilitation of a disturbed area. The strategies should be designed to ensure maintenance-free rehabilitation over the long term.
For small scale disturbance or restoration projects, a Rehabilitation Management Plan may be developed as a scaled drawing showing the location, site context, management detail and management specifications of treatment areas that require submission to your local Council for approval. For larger-scale projects or specific industries, such as mining as previously mentioned, a Rehabilitation Management Plan may be required to be developed in accordance with specific legislation requirements and form part of your development approval.
Although each project may have very different requirements in regards to the development of a Rehabilitation Management Plan, there is a typical process to be followed as provided in the next section. We would recommend that you speak to one of our experienced Environmental Consultants to discuss your requirements for rehabilitation management.
The process to Develop a Rehabilitation Management Plan
The typical process followed for the planning and development of a Rehabilitation Management Plan can be seen hereunder:
Steps for Successful Rehabilitation
To successfully rehabilitate disturbed areas, it is important to plan, implement and monitor.
Here are six steps to set you up for successful rehabilitation:
Plan for rehabilitation. Prior to disturbance, plan and prepare for rehabilitation including retention of vegetation, topsoil and fauna habitat.
Understand your local environment and constraints. What season will rehabilitation take place? Will the disturbed area be impacted by the wider catchment area? Are the soils dispersive, saline, acidic or low in nutrients?
If your site is prone to erosion, choose the correct erosion control material or design protection around your site.
Select the appropriate plant species. As part of your project’s approval, you may need replant native vegetation species. Sometimes you will need to return a vegetated cover to stop erosion.
Install your erosion control, seeds and plants properly. Make sure your contractors or ground staff do not blast tubestock out of the ground with high pressure water. Ensure your erosion control is properly installed. Always ask an expert if you are unsure about the ‘right’ way to do something.
Inspect and maintain. Plants may die, some seeds might not germinate or erosion control might need maintenance. It is important to do regular inspections to fix these problems as they arise. The longer you leave these issues the more difficult they might become to remediate.
How Applied Environment & Safety Can Help
Applied Environment & Safety have supported projects through to rehabilitation. For the TransGrid Wagga Wagga to Tumut transmission line rebuild project, substantial earthworks were required to establish safe access and construction work areas. These large-scale disturbed areas were monitored and managed from construction through to rehabilitation.
Planning and early engagement with earthmoving contractors ensured valuable topsoils and vegetation were managed appropriately for reuse in rehabilitation. Other rehabilitation controls included erosion and sediment controls; topsoil stockpiling and management; and seeding to promote vegetation growth and ground stabilisation.
For more information on the Projects that we have supported, see our Projects Page.
Environmental Management Plan (EMP) – Key Requirements for Development
An Environmental Management Plan or EMP is a key tool to ensuring appropriate management practices are implemented during your project or operations. An effectively implemented EMP will ensure compliance with legislation and approval conditions as well as implementing best practice environmental management.
An EMP describes how your project or operations may impact on the environment and sets commitments on how these impacts will be avoided, minimised and managed so that they are environmentally acceptable.
This article details the key requirements of developing an EMP and will cover the following topics:
An Environment Management Plan is a site or project-specific plan developed to ensure that appropriate environmental management practices are followed during construction and/or operations. An EMP is a guidance document used to plan, implement, measure and achieve compliance with the environmental protection and mitigation requirements. These compliance requirements include relevant legislation, project-specific approvals and other stakeholder requirements.
After being developed, the EMP may be required to be submitted to a regulator, client or other interested parties for approval. When it has been approved for the works, it becomes a compliance document required to be implemented by all management, workers, contractors and subcontractors. Therefore, the EMP should be developed to ensure that all personnel can understand the potential environmental risks, and implement the controls to manage these risks.
To ensure that the EMP is effectively managing environmental risks, the Plan should specify how management measures will be monitored and reviewed. This should include the methodology, frequency and duration of monitoring and review activities. It should also include triggers under which corrective actions are taken.
What goes in an Environmental Management Plan?
The size and the complexity of a project will influence how the EMP is developed, that is the format of the plan and level of information that is included.
For small projects, such as projects small in area with no complex environmental issues, the structure of the EMP may be organised into checklists or tables. For large projects, such as multiple sites and/or complex environmental issues, multiple plans or tables may be required based on each stage; each site or operation; and/or environmental issues.
In simple terms, the main focus of an EMP is the development of a plan that is specific to the project or operations and outlines:
Potential outcome of these issues
How these issues will be managed through monitoring and implementation
This section sets the requirements and processes for implementing the management plan and includes:
Environmental Management Structure and Responsibility: organisational structure responsible for environmental management for the project.
Approvals and Regulation Requirements: tables or lists of relevant legislation, conditions of approvals or consent, and any other requirements such as stakeholder agreements, environmental management system requirements, etc.
Reporting: description of reporting requirements including under legislation, construction monitoring, non-compliance and auditing.
Environmental Training: both general environmental awareness training and training about their responsibilities under the EMP.
Emergency Contacts and Response: procedures to be followed in the event of an environmental emergency.
The section identifies the environmental risks of the project and how they will be managed. This typically includes the following steps:
List all of the activities to be undertaken
Identify the actual and potential environmental impacts associated with each of the activities
Risk assess each of the environmental impacts to determine significant impacts
Determine environmental management controls and monitoring to prevent or minimise environmental impacts
Further information is provided in the next section regarding the content of this Implementation section.
4. Monitor and Review
An EMP is not static. It is a working document that requires reviews and amendments during the life of the project. This section should document how the environmental management activities will be monitored and reviewed to ensure the controls are effective and applicable to the project activities.
Example of a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)
For small projects or during the construction phase of a project, the ‘Implementation’ section of the Plan may be organised using an issues-based format. The issues-based format involves organising the environmental impacts, management activities and controls information under each identified environmental issue. This could be written as tables, separate sections of the Plan or separate Sub-plans.
The typical environmental issues included in a Construction Environmental Management Plan:
Erosion and sedimentation
Flora and fauna
Noise and vibration
For large projects carried out over extended periods, the ‘Implementation’ section of the EMP may be developed using a stage-based format. This involves documenting the environmental issues and control measures for each stage of a project. For example, the planning and design stage, the construction stage and the operational stage. Typically these stages would be developed as separate plans.
An Environment Management Plan (EMP) identifies the actual and potential environmental risks that may be caused by the project or operation and identifies controls to manage these risks before they result in environmental harm.
An EMP is a valuable tool to:
Define who, what, where and when environmental management and mitigation measures are to be implemented
Provide stakeholders, including government agencies, contractors and other interested parties, with better insight and control over the environmental aspects
Demonstrate due diligence
Overall, an EMP that has been specifically developed for your project or operations is key to ensuring your environmental risks are identified and appropriate management practices implemented. A well developed and effectively implemented EMP will ensure compliance with your regulatory requirements as well as implementing best practice environmental management.
If you are looking for an EMP for your project, contact us to have one of our specialists support your request.
Applied Environment & Safety are proud to be awarded 3-Star Partnership with the CCIQ ecoBiz program again this year. We have been active participants in the ecoBiz program and a recognised Star Partner for over five years. Through this program, we have been implementing sustainable business practices based on reducing energy and water use, and waste minimisation.
CCIQ ecoBiz is a free program, funded by the Queensland Government, that helps businesses save money by reducing energy, water and waste. ecoBiz has been a very successful program working with thousands of Queensland businesses.
Given that our business operates predominantly either from our home office or client locations, our ecoBiz assessment was completed on a qualitative assessment of energy, water and waste savings.
Our achievements for 2020-21 in regards to energy, water and waste are:
Solar panels installed on home office in December 2020
Commenced Carbon Neutral certification process through Climate Active in September 2020
Offset 35 tonnes of carbon, more than double our 2020 carbon emissions in June 2021
Certified as Carbon Neutral in July 2021
Ongoing member of local catchment group
Implemented rehabilitation of council verge bushland at home office including removal of weeds, replanting native plants and mulching as waterwise garden
Ongoing implementation of the Containers for Change Refund Scheme, through our business and our clients with more than 4,000 cans/bottles have been donated so far
Keep Cups and other reusable containers utilised by employees whilst travelling
Implemented office clean-up including recycling or donation of disused electronic equipment
As a result of Applied Environment & Safety energy initiatives, we have been awarded a 3-Star ecoBiz partnership for energy, water and waste. Our assessment was based on our business practices and behaviours which demonstrate implementation of business sustainability, and minimisation of our environmental footprint.
Our sustainable business initiatives for 2021-2022 are:
Continue our Carbon Neutral certification
Focus business development on Queensland work to reduce travel and carbon emissions. Aim to increase local work by 10%
Set-up water wise vegetable and herb garden at home office including use of drip irrigation and mulching
Participate in catchment group activities such as clean-up day
Ongoing implementation of Containers for Change Refund Scheme
Identify options for reducing paper waste such as use of tablets or phone apps rather than paper documents
Implement further office waste separation and disposal such as batteries and printer cartridges
We will keep you updated on the progress of these initiatives. Tracking of our carbon offsets, container recycling and donations are reported on our website News feed.
Applied Environment & Safety is a Certified Carbon Neutral Company
Applied Environment & Safety is proud to announce our certification as a certified carbon neutral company through Climate Active. Applied Environment & Safety joins a growing network of organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. Achieving a carbon neutral operating status.
Our carbon neutral status is based on a certification process that involves five key steps.
Create an emissions boundary
Defining the scope of our carbon emissions to be measured. What emissions are relevant and reasonably accountable for our business operations?
Calculate annual carbon emissions
Collect data and undertake verification to quantify our annual carbon emissions. How do we best record our emissions within our emissions boundary?
Set an emissions reductions strategy
Set targeted, measurable carbon reduction strategies based on our main emissions contributors. How can we reduce our emissions in the future?
Purchasing of carbon offsets in reforestation and re-planting projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere equivalent to the amount created by our operations. How much carbon do we need to offset to achieve net zero emissions?
Ongoing certification and improvement
Ensuring ongoing Climate Active certification and review of performance against our emissions reduction targets and opportunities for further reductions. Are we meeting our reduction goals and how can we further reduce our emissions?
Our Carbon Neutral Journey
Our journey began in 2019 while reflecting upon our business operations and environmental impacts. Due to the nature of our service-based operations, we concluded that our environmental impact would best be quantified and mitigated through a reduction of our carbon footprint.
Setting our Emissions Boundary
The first step to achieving our carbon neutral status involved establishing an ‘emissions boundary’, essentially identifying our emissions sources. We worked closely with Sustainable Business Consultants a registered Climate Active consultant to form our emissions boundary.
To identify our emissions sources, we analysed each aspect of our business operations. Firstly, our office based operations, which revealed several emissions sources. These sources were primarily relating to energy consumption such as lighting, heating and cooling, and electronics. Secondly, working from our client’s workplaces and construction sites, which is where our largest emissions are generated. This is predominantly due to flights and other transport.
Calculating our Carbon Emissions
Once our emissions boundary had been set, we then calculated our total annual carbon emissions for our base year in 2020. We used records to calculate our emissions including; flight, accommodation itineraries, energy usage records, vehicle logbooks, ride share, public transport logs, waste generation data and more. To ensure accuracy for our office emissions, we considered time spent at each location. Emissions that were not able to quantify, for example, water usage. These were included a 5% uplift on our overall emissions to ensure these were accounted for in our base year.
With our base year emissions data calculated, we then had our data verified by an independent third-party consultant (Sustainable Business Consultants) to confirm our calculations were accurate. Once confirmed, we had our 2020 base year carbon emissions total.
Our Emissions Reduction Strategy
By simply understanding our carbon emission sources we were then able to plan our future reduction strategy. We are committed to reducing our future emissions meeting specific targets based on our primary emission sources. This includes increasing local business opportunities, therefore reducing travel & flight related emissions, direct offsets for flights, solar energy production, and utilising other carbon neutral products/services where possible.
Offsetting our Carbon Emissions
After our base year carbon emissions had been calculated and verified, we sought to offset our emissions by supporting Australian reforestation & re-planting projects. This would help remove our carbon contributions from the atmosphere.
Partnering with Carbon Neutral, Applied Environment & Safety now proudly supports the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project, a large-scale reforestation and habitat restoration project in Western Australia. The project involves reforestation of degraded land by revegetating the landscape with native trees and shrubs. Therefore, encouraging wildlife to return while at the same time removing carbon from the atmosphere. The project seeks to create a 200km green corridor reconnecting remnant vegetation with 12 nature reserves across 10,000 km2.
Our current contributions to the project enable the offset of 35 tonnes of carbon; more than double our 2020 annual emissions.
Climate Active Certification
We have now successfully established our emissions boundary, calculated our base year emissions, offset our emissions, and set a future emissions reduction strategy. The final step in our carbon neutral journey was to submit and formally join the Climate Active network to become a certified carbon neutral company.
Climate Active is an Australian Government initiative and organisation that certifies businesses, products, services and events as carbon neutral. By achieving Climate Active certification, we join a collective group of companies committed to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions and climate change impacts.
What does Carbon Neutral really mean for us?
We believe in leading by example and promoting environmental sustainability. Now operating as a carbon neutral organisation, this further demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability. Our Climate Active certification ensures we are accountable for our carbon footprint and has allowed us to formalise our sustainability goals.
Although our emissions are relatively low, we recognise the value of doing our part to offset our carbon footprint. We are proud to part of a collective group of organisations dedicated to climate solutions for our future.
Further following our Climate Active accreditation; our goal is to continually improve our operations and work toward our carbon emissions reduction strategy. We seek to maintain our carbon neutral status and look forward to our continued involvement in carbon offsetting, reforestation, and biodiversity projects.
Our clients can have confidence that by working with us, they are supporting our carbon neutral operations and having a net zero impact on climate change.
Are you considering starting your own journey toward becoming a certified carbon neutral company? Interested, inspired, or wondering where to begin? Visit the Climate Active website or chat to us today about our journey.
When we talk about effective workplace health and safety management systems, we often talk about workplace hazards and risks. More specifically, how we can achieve proactive hazard identification followed by successful risk management.
So, what is hazard identification and risk management, how do we go about it, and why is it important in our workplace?
In this article, we answer these questions along with other common queries regarding hazard identification and risk management in the workplace.
What is a Hazard? What is a Risk?
A hazard is defined by Safe Work Australia as “a situation or thing that has the potential to harm a person“. A risk is defined as “the possibility that harm (death, injury or illness) might occur when exposed to a hazard“.
For example, boiling water in a saucepan on a kitchen cooktop is a hazard, as it has the potential to harm a person. The risk associated with this hazard is being burned, as this may occur if you are exposed to the hazard. Another common example of a hazard in the workplace is lifting heavy boxes (manual handling), the associated risks may include slips, trips or falls, or muscle sprains and strains while undertaking the manual handling (being exposed to the hazard).
With an understanding of what hazards and risks are, we can now start to understand the hazard identification and risk management process.
What is Risk Management?
The overall risk management process involves identifying hazards, assessing the risks associated with the hazard, implementing controls to eliminate or lower the risks then reviewing and maintaining the controls. We will now investigate each step of this process further.
Four Steps of Hazard Identification and Risk Management
What is Hazard Identification?
Hazard identification in the workplace is the first important step in understanding your risks and implementing controls, where necessary.
Hazard identification is best undertaken as a multi-faceted approach using a range of methods including the following:
1. Risk Assessment Workshops
Engagewith management, staff, key stakeholders, etc. through collaborative workshops to discuss operations and tasks to identify hazards and assess risks.
2. Worker and Employee Consultation
Encourage staff feedback. Critically important for larger businesses where management cannot oversee all aspects of work. Front line workers are a great asset for identifying and reporting hazards.
3. Workplace Inspections and Audits
Regular workplace inspections and audits help to reveal any new or changed workplace tasks or operations which may result in additional or changed hazards.
4. Incident Reporting and Review
Meticulous incident reporting and review highlights any key contributing hazards.
5. Review of Operators Manuals and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
Some hazards can be already identified on documents such as machinery, plant or vehicle operational manuals, or hazardous substances and dangerous goods SDS.
What are the types of Hazards?
Different hazards will be identified within your workplace depending on the nature and location of your operations. Hazards can be categorised into the following types:
Hazards that are physical conditions or factors within the workplace that can adversely impact health and safety. Examples include heat exposure, working at heights, working in confined spaces.
Hazards that may pose a biological threat to human health. Examples include diseases or viruses transmitted through human, animal, or plant matter.
Hazardous chemicals which pose a human health risk if not correctly managed. Examples include flammable liquids, toxins or carcinogens.
Hazards that are physical factors in the work environment that may cause musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. Examples include poor office and equipment layouts, workstation design.
Hazards that are factors or aspects of work that have the potential to cause psychological harm. Examples include bullying, sexual harassment and fatigue.
What is the Aim of Hazard Identification?
Hazard identification is a crucial part in your overall risk management process. It provides a stocktake of all foreseeable and anticipated hazards that may arise in the workplace during typical operations as well as in an emergency situation.
A thorough hazard identification process sets the foundations for targeted risk assessments, implementation of controls and overall management of risk for your operations.
What is a Risk Assessment?
Assessing risks is the second step of the risk management process and is directly informed by the hazard identification stage. Risk assessment involves analysing each hazard to understand the related risks and the nature of harm that could be caused. A risk assessment should detail the severity of the risk (how serious are the consequences), as well as the likelihood of the risk resulting in injury or harm. Let’s look at our example of lifting heavy boxes again…
Heavy boxes (the hazard) are required to be moved from a removalist truck into a house. Staff moving the boxes will be exposed to the hazard while they are moving them, engaging in manual handling. During manual handling, there is a risk of muscle strains or sprains.
There are various risk assessment matrices and tools to determine risk ratings, however for this example, let’s keep it simple. So we may determine the severity of the risk for a muscle strain as low-medium as it is typically not associated with a long-term disabling injury, however, it may require medical attention. The likelihood of this occurring during manual handling we might determine as high (probable). Based on our risk assessment we have now identified a highly probable risk with a low-medium severity rating.
Now we have identified and assessed our risk, let’s look at implementing controls.
How to Control Risks in the Workplace
Implementing controls can lower the severity or likelihood of the risk resulting in injury or harm. By lowering the severity and likelihood, the overall risk is reduced or may be eliminated. To determine effective and appropriate controls, the hierarchy of controls is used.
The hierarchy of controls outlines the most effective controls in reducing risk through to the least effective controls. Eliminating or removing the hazard is the highest level of control. If the hazard cannot be eliminated, the risk associated with the hazard can be lowered through isolation, substitution or engineering controls. Then, the risk of the hazard can be lowered using administrative controls. Lastly, personal protective equipment can be used to reduce the risk of harm to workers. Let’s look at our manual handling example again.
We cannot eliminate the hazard as moving heavy boxes is a key task for removalists. Engineering controls in the form of mechanical aid could be implemented such as use of pallet jack or trolley where possible. If engineering, isolation or substitution controls are not feasible, we could implement an administrative control, being a safe manual handling procedure and training for staff. A combination of controls may be required to lower the overall risk of the hazard.
Review and Maintain Control Measures
It is important to regularly review your controls to ensure their effectiveness. There are two main components to consider when reviewing your control measures.
First, when you will review your controls. Managing hazards and risks is an ongoing process, so you should be reviewing your control measures regularly. A schedule should set for when the reviews will happen. How frequently these reviews are scheduled will depend on the nature of your organisation. For example, if your company deals with numerous high risks, your control measures should be reviewed more frequently.
In addition to a review schedule, your organisation’s work health and safety plan should include triggers that indicate when a risk review is required. By having these outlined, it will ensure that measures are reviewed in advance of your schedule if necessary. Risk control measures would be reviewed when:
The control measure is not working such as when someone is injured or experiences a ‘near miss’
Workplace layouts or practices are changed
New equipment, materials or work processes are introduced
A new problem is identified
Audits, inspections or consultation with identify that a review is necessary
Why is Risk Management Important for Your Organisation?
Now that we have an understanding of hazard identification and risk management, what are the benefits to your organisation?
All organisations have a legal responsibility in Australia to provide a safe work environment. Identifying hazards is the first step in removing or mitigating risks, and preventing work-related injuries or fatalities.
Additionally, being a responsible employer by taking an active role in worker safety by reducing hazards will reflect better on your company both in the market and community.
Need help with your hazard identification and risk management? Our team are skilled in a range of industries and operations, and would be happy to discuss how we can best help, contact us should you need support.
An Introduction To Environmental Planning Solutions
This article focuses on the key elements of environmental planning & environmental planning solutions that you need to consider when you are thinking about your upcoming project.
You have probably heard the saying, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.’ This is true for any personal goal you are trying to reach, whether it be planning your exercise routine so you can finish your first marathon or planning your work schedule so you have enough time to take your annual fishing long weekend.
Planning is also important when it comes to upcoming development projects, expansions or new operations. Consideration of the environmental aspects in the earliest stages of planning sets you up for success by identifying risks and opportunities as well as timeframes and budgets.
This article focuses on the key elements of environmental planning that you need to consider when you are thinking about your upcoming project.
What Is Environmental Planning?
Firstly, lets clarify the scope and meaning of the ‘environment’. Under the Queensland Environmental Protection Act 1994 for example, the definition of environment is:
(a) ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities; and
(b) all natural and physical resources; and
(c) the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas…; and
(d) the social, economic, aesthetic and cultural conditions that affect, or are affected by, things mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c).
Under this definition, the environment is much more than the natural environment. The use of the term ‘social, economic, aesthetic and cultural conditions’ significantly broadens the meaning of environment and the scope of environmental planning.
Environmental planning is about:
Protecting natural ecosystems and biodiversity
Effectively utilising natural and physical resources
Protecting and enhancing air, land and water quality
Promoting sustainability and waste reduction
Minimising impacts on aesthetic and cultural heritage values of places
Ensuring that actions result in a net gain to local communities
The scope of environmental planning for projects may include approvals for development proposals that have environmental implications. It may also include environmental and social impact assessments. As well as approvals required to clear native vegetation, offset impacts, take natural resources or access protected land.
What Are Environmental Planning Solutions?
There are three key components of environmental planning:
First, is understanding the current status of the natural environment. This may include baseline environmental studies, evaluating existing land uses and identifying local community values.
The second component is planned outcomes. This involves defining the scope and objectives of the development taking into consideration laws, regulations and best practice.
The third component is implementation. This considers how the planning will be implemented during the project.
Environmental planning solutions consider the risks and opportunities of the development early within the planning process. Being proactive is more likely to lead to project success. This may include feasibility studies to determine the viability of the proposed development from an environmental and social perspective by identifying potential issues and threats to successful project completion. Involvement at the earliest stages of a project ensures securing timely environmental approvals as well as development of implementable controls and management outcomes.
Environmental laws and regulations relevant to your development will be depend on the type of proposed operations and location. In Australia, federal, state and local governments jointly administer environmental protection laws.
If your development is likely to affect areas of national environmental significance, you will need Commonwealth approvals prior to commencing your development. Use the Protected Matters Search Tool to check for areas of national environmental significance.
Your proposed development may also be regulated under State and Local government environment laws through licences and permits. In addition, government agencies and industry groups develop voluntary codes of practice to guide industry’s impact on the environment. These may also require integration into your development proposal.
Location and Project Description
Environmental planning needs to consider the development location and associated values. This may include undertaking baseline studies, such as water quality or flora and fauna, of the area and surrounds. As well as consideration of historical and planned land uses, local community interests, and cultural heritage values. This provides context to the development and will identify potential constraints and opportunities for the project.
Under environmental legislation in Australia, there is a requirement for public notification of some developments. Public notification ensures that interested stakeholders are aware of the development and they have the opportunity to make submissions. There are requirements in regards to public notices, submission periods and response to submissions under different legislation.
Early engagement with stakeholders provides the opportunity to introduce the project and commence the development of relationships. Early relationships provide the opportunity to test ideas, at phases where decisions are able to be influenced by key stakeholders, which will lead to positive outcomes for all parties.
Why are Environmental Planning Solutions important?
Most projects clearly define their objectives, work scope, budget, and schedule but, all too often, the environment and context in which the project exists is neither fully understood nor clearly defined. This is a major source of risk when it comes to project management and execution.
Environmental planning should start at the beginning of a project, expansion or new operation. Commencing in the earliest stages of project planning, such as feasibility studies or early contractor involvement, sets up the project for success by identifying risks and opportunities. This leads to the delivery of the project on time and within budget. If the project management team do not fully understand the environmental context, the project will, in all likelihood, fail. This is because the environmental context drives project performance as much as a clearly defined work scope, budget, or schedule.
Environmental Approvals and Permits
Scoping the types of environmental approvals and permits required, and commencing communications with the key regulators, should be implemented early in the environmental planning process. This assists in securing environmental approvals within the timeline of the project. As well as providing an early understanding of likely conditions to be applied to the development.
Early planning provides the opportunity to introduce the project to regulators, community and other stakeholders. This provides the opportunity to develop a good, open reputation and positive relationship with key stakeholders. This will potentially lead to less conflicts and shorter assessment times through early participation in the environmental assessment process.
Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) & Tenders
Implementation of environmental planning during the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) or Tender phase of the project allows risks and opportunities to be identified. Involvement during ECI contracts allows consideration of designs to mitigate and minimise environmental impacts. Also for large or complex projects, this allows an integrated team time to gain an early understanding of requirements, enabling robust risk management and innovation. Environmental planning during tenders allows identification of risks likely to affect work scope, budget, and schedule. This is essential to being able to plan, implement, and control a project effectively.
Environmental Management Plans
As part of environmental planning, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) is developed to detail management measures to be implemented during the project. The EMP identifies environmental issues and provides strategies for managing them effectively. The EMP should cover the design, construction, commissioning, and operation and maintenance phases of each project component.
This diagram hereunder helps visualise how environmental planning and environmental management fits and contributes to environmental protection as a whole.
Should your project need help with environmental planning solutions and management, Applied Environment & Safety have a wide experience working with a range of business sectors. View our project portfolio for more information or contact us if you would like to speak directly.