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Is Your Business Meeting its Environmental Obligations?

Environmental protection legislation is consistently being reviewed, with new laws being passed regularly at commonwealth, state and local government level. This new legislation contains severe penalties for environmental offenders, so it is vital as a business that you know what your environmental obligations are and how to meet them.

If you haven’t yet developed an environmental management plan for your business, there are good reasons to do so, not just to meet your obligations, but to benefit from the savings that can be made by introducing green practices into your business.

Compliance training is an excellent way to get up to speed on environmental compliance issues and would provide a solid foundation on which to build your environmental management plan.

The NSW Government’s Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 covers water, land, air and noise pollution as well as waste management, and is a good example of a typical piece of environmental legislation.

Section 120 of the POEO Act deals with water pollution and carries heavy penalties for individuals and companies who allow polluting substances to enter the stormwater system or groundwater. To prevent this happening, a business should correctly store chemicals and have emergency measures in place such as spill kits and staff trained in their use.

Section 124 – 126 deals with air pollution and requires businesses to maintain equipment and materials in such a manner that they do not cause impurities to be emitted into the air.

Section 116 and 142 of the Act concerns land pollution and deems it an offence to allow any substance to leak that could harm the environment, whether this is done knowingly or accidentally.

Section 139 and 140 deal with noise pollution and require businesses to maintain equipment and materials in such a manner that they do not produce offensive noise outside the premises.

The POEO Act also deals with waste management, with heavy fines for waste producers, transporters or receivers who fail to dispose of waste in an appropriate manner. Businesses are urged to avoid unneccesary consumption of resources, recover resources wherever possible and dispose of waste safely and legally.

The POEO Act and similar legislation in other states gives authorities (usually the EPA or local council) the power to inspect premises and issue fines or prosecute where applicable. For this reason, you and your employees need to be aware of your environmental obligations and meet them or exceed them wherever possible.

Exceeding your environmental obligations not only means you avoid the penalties for breaches, but it also presents opportunities to make substantial savings. One such saving is through reusing, recycling and reprocessing materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste.

Environmental compliance is now a fact of life for business and risk management training is a good way to learn everything about environmental compliance, from what licences you may need through to compliance monitoring and incident reporting.

This, along with the development of an environmental management plan, is an essential step to ensure your continued success in what is becoming an ever more regulated business environment.