About dust and what causes it

Dust is a common air pollutant. Many different sources and activities generate dust, including: 

  • demolition of structures, such as buildings, sheds, towers, chimney stacks, silos and storage tanks 
  • excavating, stockpiling, handling and transferring materials
  • drilling and blasting
  • vehicle movements on unsealed roads and tracks
  • cement handling and batching
  • mining and quarrying
  • glass reprocessing
  • agricultural activities, such as ploughing and soil tilling.

When business and industries don’t manage dust, it can impact people’s health and the environment, including: 

  • people on your site
  • homes
  • aged care facilities
  • parks
  • waterways.

Dust’s impacts on the environment include:

  • damage to parks and outdoor recreation sites, impacting use and enjoyment
  • damage to plants and ecosystems
  • reduced visibility onsite and in nearby areas, which can lead to other hazards
  • poor water quality, and death of aquatic animals and plants due to waterway sedimentation

Businesses and industries that need to manage dust include:

Why eliminating or reducing dust is important

When you use a structured way to eliminate or reduce the risks of harm dust poses, it helps you: 

Failure to eliminate or reduce these risks could mean you face:

  • clean-up costs,
  • lost work time
  • legal fees
  • fines and criminal charges.

About dust and your duties

Businesses should make sure dust from their activities doesn’t harm human health or the environment. This includes being responsible for contractors or tradespeople you may hire.

You have obligations to: 

You may also need to meet specific conditions if your activity is a prescribed activity under the permissions scheme. This applies to businesses with a licence, permit or registration.

You should also check if you need to comply with any local council requirements.

Assessing nuisance dust

Nuisance dust can cause harm to human health and the environment. It can also cause damage to property. This can result in increased cleaning and maintenance around homes and/or businesses. EPA has created new guidance on the assessment of nuisance dust to help determine the risk of harm caused by nuisance dust.

Who needs it?

Guidance for Assessing Nuisance Dust provides a framework to assess risks from nuisance dust. This publication is intended for the following:

  • The government
  • The planning sector
  • Air quality professionals

Furthermore, this will assist decision makers, planners, environmental managers, consultants and industry. 

What is the law?

The Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act) came into force on 1 July 2021. This heralds a new era in the way pollution and waste are to be managed. That is, to reduce their effects on public health and the environmental values all Victorians enjoy. The assessment process in these guidelines and the approach taken are determined by the provisions of the Act.

One of the new overarching provisions is the duty to eliminate or minimise the risks posed by hazards to prevent harm. The cornerstone of the Environment Protection Act is s25 “General Environmental Duty” (GED). In simple terms, it requires all Victorians to take precautionary and reasonable actions to avoid creating hazards and harm before they happen. This goes beyond the previous approach which was to control actual hazards and harm once they were identified.

How is it useful?

An understanding of these risks can inform decisions made by authorities or industry to minimise the potential for future hazards or harm. Practitioners in nuisance dust assessment can use this guide to support them in:

  • Application processes for EPA permissions including licenses and permits.
  • Planning assessments including setting buffer area overlays, planning permit applications, precinct structure planning and rezoning applications.
  • Variation or assessment of separation distances.
  • Evaluating the risk of harm as part of your responsibilities/obligations as a Duty Holder under the Act.
  • Investigations into a specific source of dust for strategic or enforcement purposes.

The main feature of the guide is a new qualitative risk assessment tool for use in assessing the risk posed by nuisance dust. These are based on three key elements:

  • The hazard potential of dust sources
  • The exposure pathway between the source and receiving environment.
  • The sensitivity of the receiving environment.

What else do I need to know?

Other features of the guide include:

  • How to use case studies in assessments,
  • Application of meteorological assessment,
  • Assessments of many or cumulative dust sources, and
  • Reporting standards.
  • A quick reference guide for dust prevention, management and control.

For more information, download the guidance for assessing dust.

Find out more about dust

Reviewed 23 June 2022