Victoria’s new environment protection laws take effect on 1 July 2021. These laws mean that you have a responsibility to identify and understand your risks, and put in place controls that eliminate or reduce your risk of causing harm to human health and the environment.
We know that with the introduction of the new environment protection laws, some small businesses may need support to understand what these new laws mean for them. In particular, how the general environmental duty applies to them and the activities they undertake.
EPA’s Small Business Program pilot offers free expert advice about managing risks under the new environment protection laws to a limited number of eligible small businesses across Victoria.
Under the program, the advice received is:
Free – EPA will cover the costs of the advice received.
Personal – businesses receive an “in person” visit from an experienced consultant who will work with them to build their very own action plan. This will help identify ways business can establish, maintain or improve compliance with the new environment protection laws.
Private – while all action plans will be shared with EPA (to help us understand where more support is required), it will be de-identified. EPA will not be able to identify which plan relates to which participating business.
Who could participate
If you operate a dry cleaning, automotive repair or maintenance or automotive body repair business that employs less than 60 employees, you could participate in the Small Business Program pilot.
You did not need to have participated in any other program with EPA to join.
75 participants from across the State, registered to participate.
How it works
Having a sustainable and livable Victoria is important to everyone. We must all work together to prevent and reduce the harmful effect of pollution and waste on Victoria’s environment and people.
As part of the Small Business Program pilot participants receive direct and tailored advice from consultants who specialise in supporting business to comply with laws that seek to prevent harm, such as the environment protection laws.
This free advice helps identify ways business could meet its obligations under the new environment protection laws and to learn how to identify, manage and monitor environmental risks help us protect the environment now and in the future.
The pilot phase
The pilot phase of the program opened in November 2020, when businesses were able to register to participate.
Registrations have now closed. Visits commenced in February 2021 and will be ongoing for 12 months (with visits to close in February 2022).
Frequently asked questions
EPA is going through its biggest change since it began in 1971. In response to an independent inquiry into EPA, the Victorian Government will implement new environmental laws that provide EPA more powers and tools to prevent risks to the environment and human health. They also allow EPA to issue stronger sanctions to hold polluters to account.
The general environmental duty (GED) is central to the new laws. It requires all Victorians to manage risks to human health and the environment from their activities.
Everyone must take steps to prevent or minimise those risks. For businesses, this may be correctly managing waste or storing chemicals safely.
The Small Business Program pilot offers free expert advice about managing risks to eligible businesses, similar to WorkSafe Victoria’s ‘OHS Essentials Program’.
EPA has established the program pilot as it has been found that some business owners have difficulty applying general information to their specific circumstances and strongly prefer specific information about what they need to do.
By offering this program pilot, EPA hopes to understand the value of businesses receiving face-to-face expert advice and whether it can create positive changes to the way waste and pollution is managed.
The Small Business Program pilot will provide tailored expert advice and practical support to a limited number of small businesses.
The advice should help small businesses integrate the required risk management practices into their business processes.
The program proposes to deliver the services to businesses in:
- automotive repair and maintenance
- automotive body repair.
The program proposes to deliver the services to businesses within the dry-cleaning and automotive repair and maintenance industries and automotive body repair businesses.
These industries were selected, as EPA has worked alongside Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce and the Drycleaning Institute of Australia to build the pilot program. There are many small businesses that operate in this space, and those small businesses are likely to have a basic understanding of EPA’s function, and may have differing levels of awareness of their current and future obligations. They will benefit from some direct support and education.
EPA is committed to providing all businesses with support, education and guidance to help them understand and comply with the new legislation.
EPA support will be available to all small and medium businesses in the form of:
- industry specific guides
- a small business self-assessment tool
- website content
- online and phone support
- industry guidance material
At the close of the pilot, EPA will evaluate the effectiveness of the program, and its benefits going forward.
The pilot phase of the program will open in November 2020, when businesses can register to participate. Visits will commence in February 2021 and will remain open for about 12 months (with visits set to close in February 2022).
If I don’t want to or don’t qualify to participate, where can I get more information about what I am required to do (i.e. how else is EPA helping me understand my obligations)?
EPA’s website has useful information for you to understand what the news laws are, and what they mean for you (e.g. self-assessment tool, sector guides).
You can search the new website by a particular topic, or simply find your industry to learn more about the information that is available to you.
Alternatively, your industry association may have useful tools and support for you to help you understand your obligations or what risks and hazards might be common in your industry.
There are many ways to keep in contact with EPA:
- If you want to learn more about the program pilot you can email us at: Industry.Guidance@epa.vic.gov.au
- If you want to keep informed about updates from EPA (what’s happening, what might be useful for you), you can subscribe to our quarterly email Business Bulletin. It features key updates for EPA licence holders, businesses and industry. It also links to recent EPA publications, and offers ways to give feedback on EPA’s work.
- If you have any general questions, you can always email EPA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each business that participates in the program pilot will receive their own individual ‘action plan’.
The purpose of the action plan is to set out ways you can imbed practices into your workplace that support you to identify, assess and manage human health and environmental risks. These steps will help you understand how you can comply with the new laws..
The action plans are not compliance instruments – there are no immediate compliance and enforcement activities that are associated with the plans.
However, following advice you receive from the consultants will support you to understand how you can make sure you’ve controlled your risks of harm, to the extent it is reasonably practicable – ultimately, you may be able to prevent harm from actually occurring which is a better outcome for all Victorians. Also, following any advice from consultants may also mean that if EPA were to visit your business, you may feel better about being able to demonstrate your compliance with the new laws.
Note: as noted above, following the action plan does not discharge your duties under the new Act – the plans are a guiding tool only to support you embed the risks assessment practices into your businesses.
The program pilot will provide you with useful and important advice to help you manage your risks of harm – to do this, you will need to dedicate the time to meet with the experts who will help you.
You will receive two visits from our consultants:
- The first visit will be in person, at your workplace. It will take no more than three hours. The consultant will provide you a written summary of the actions you can take to continue to (or to better) manage your risks.
- After this first visit – the consultant will give you a call to see how you are going with your action plan, and whether you have any queries. It will only take as much of your time as you need.
- This will be followed up with a second visit, that will either occur in person or by other means (i.e. teleconference), at least six months after your initial visit. This visit will take no more than two hours.
- EPA may also ask you to participate in some very short surveys that will give you an opportunity to tell us whether you felt the advice you received was useful to you and helped you embed risk management practices into your businesses (if you don’t already have them). These surveys won’t take up much of your time.
You will not need to prepare anything formal for your visit. However, to get the most out of your visit with the consultant, it’s a good idea to get together any documentation you might have on the environmental aspects of your business. This is so you can show the consultant what you already do to prevent the risks of harm to people or the environment.
EPA has engaged Greencap as the consultant who will deliver these services to you.
You can visit Greencap’s website to find out more about their expertise and experience.
Following your application, Greencap will confirm with you if you’ve been selected to participate in the program pilot.
If you are not participating in the program pilot, and you wish to engage your own consultant, EPA has a handy fact sheet to help guide you when engaging consultants.
Reviewed 9 April 2021