Any person that is responsible for e-waste must assess the risks of harm to human health and the environment and take steps to eliminate or manage the risks.

Your understanding and management of risk is crucial. Assessing and controlling risk in a structured way will help ensure that your storage, transport and/or reprocessing of e-waste:

  • prevents harm to human health and the environment
  • complies with your legal obligations
  • meets community expectations.

Use Assessing and controlling risk: a guide for business (publication 1695) as a starting point to develop your understanding of the risks at your site and the controls you need in place to manage e-waste at your site. The guide also contains useful resources like a hazard and risk register template and an example of a risk matrix to help you assess risks.

Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials - guideline (publication 1667) provides practical information on how to control fire hazards and risks for e-waste processing.

You may identify that you need bunding to manage the risk of ground contamination from e-waste liquid components, including heating and cooling equipment or batteries. See Liquid storage and handling guidelines (publication 1698) for more information about how to eliminate or reduce the risk of contaminating land, surface water and groundwater.

There are four basic steps your business needs to follow to control hazards and risks present in the storage of e-waste:

Steps in controlling hazards and risks infographic 

Your implementation of this process should be proportionate to the amount of e-waste your business stores and the type of e-waste service you provide.

  • Step 1: Identify hazards

    What hazards are present that might cause harm?

    Identify and understand risks, including:

    • types of e-waste managed – does any of the e-waste you are managing contain hazardous substances?
    • e-waste components – are any hazardous parts to the types of e-waste you are receiving?
    • storage and handling practices – are they being stored or handled in a way that could contaminate soil, or water, or cause a fire risk?
    • fire risks and potential impacts of fire management – have you considered whether the types of e-waste could pose a fire risk with how they are being stored (e.g. batteries)
    • site design, access and drainage – does your site have adequate ways of containing any potential soils or water contaminants?
    • consideration of what is around your site, for example, houses or a waterway – could the environment or people be harmed if any contaminants were released or a fire started at your site?
    • any other risk relevant to your site or operation.
  • Step 2: Assess risks

    What is the level or severity of risk, based on likelihood and consequence?

    Understand and assess the level or severity of risk, based on consequence and likelihood. For example, a fire hazard can result in:

    • runoff of firewater, combustion products and firefighting chemicals into local creeks and waterways, poor air quality and pollution due to emittance of toxic smoke
    • harm to employees, visitors, contractors, emergency service personnel and others on site
    • harm to surrounding residents and businesses and the broader community such as exposure to toxic smoke, asbestos or other reactive dusts.

    Some typical questions to ask to identify the consequences of a fire include:

    • Are there adequate distances between storage piles?
    • Is there adequate access to/around the site for firefighting authorities?
    • Have the minimum site access requirements stipulated by the firefighting authorities been adapted onsite?
    • How could firewater runoff enter the environment?
    • How far away is the nearest waterway?

    Some typical questions to ask to assess the likelihood of a fire include:

    • Has a fire occurred in the e-waste industry before, and if so, what were the consequences? 
    • Have there been any near misses at your site?
    • How could variations in operating conditions increase the risk?
  • Step 3: Implement controls

    What measures are suitable and available to the business to eliminate or reduce the risk?

    Reduce risks by implementing controls, for example:

    • do not accept types of e-waste that cannot be appropriately managed or stored
    • have appropriate infrastructure to store e-waste, such as an impermeable surface and coverage to ensure the e-waste doesn’t get wet
    • avoid risky activities such as e-waste compaction or crushing
    • isolate areas where risky activities occur
    • install engineering controls to capture dust, vapours or liquids generated from e-waste processing or handling
    • transport in a manner that avoids breakage or prevents dust escape
    • train staff to appropriately handle types of e-waste
    • provide relevant signs and instruction.
  • Step 4: Check controls

    Review the controls to ensure they are effective

    Regularly monitor and review the controls you have put in place for their effectiveness and take action to resolve any issues. Ensure controls continue to eliminate and/or minimise harm.

Reviewed 21 September 2020