All businesses must manage the risks their activities may pose to human health and the environment from pollution or waste. 

Managing risk in a structured way helps businesses: 

  • better identify, assess and control risks that could impact air, land, water and groundwater, as well as harm caused by noise  
  • prevent harm to human health and the environment 
  • comply with your environmental duties and obligations 
  • meet community expectations.  

Under the general environmental duty (GED), it’s your responsibility to:  

There are other duties and obligations you may need to meet.  

Not eliminating or reducing your environmental risk could mean you face cleanup costs, lost work time, legal fees, fines and criminal charges.

How to manage risk

Your approach to managing risk will depend on the scale of your activities and how complex they are. It also depends on the kinds of risks you need to manage. 

Some business activities pose a low risk of causing pollution. These have low potential to cause harm to human health and the environment. For example, they may produce small amounts of waste that can go in normal bins.  

Businesses with activities that pose low risk include: 

  • retail and convenience stores 
  • offices 
  • cafes 
  • bars 
  • pharmacies. 

These businesses may only need to take basic steps to comply with the law. Basic steps to show you’re managing risk include: 

  • remove waste 
  • keep sites clean 
  • keep rubbish and chemicals out of stormwater drains. 

Find out more about what you might need to do if your business activities are low-risk

Some businesses engage in activities that pose medium to high-risk of harm to human health and the environment. They must take extra steps to eliminate or reduce these risks.  

Medium to high-risk activities include: 

  • handling and storing liquids 
  • disposing of chemicals 
  • receiving, storing and treating waste 
  • discharging industrial waste. 

You must properly manage these activities to avoid risk of polluting soil, groundwater, surface water and air. 

Businesses with medium to high-risk activities should follow a risk management process

Find out more about medium to high-risk business activities.  

Read more about managing risk

Reviewed 13 September 2021