Video transcript

Many things we do can cause pollution and create waste. Pollution and waste may harm our health and the environment.

Businesses need to manage the risks of harm their hazards may cause. Common hazards in businesses can include chemical spills, dust, offensive odours, as well as unwanted noise and vibration.

It's important to know your hazards and the harm they can cause. EPA has guidance for different industries that explains common sources of hazards, what your obligations are and how to manage your risks.

For more information visit

A hazard is something that can cause harm to the environment or human health from pollution or waste. For example: 

  • release of smoke 
  • spills into stormwater.  

A risk is the threat that a hazard poses to human health and the environment.

You may need to manage one or many hazards to prevent harm occurring from your activities. Following a risk management process can help you identify hazards.

Some common hazards include:

  • Air contaminants

    Toxic or hazardous materials discharged to the air from processing or manufacturing activities are a major pollutant.

    Common sources include: 

    • furnaces 
    • boilers 
    • process vents 
    • bulk storage tanks 
    • equipment leaks 
    • uncovered solvents.

    EPA has information on air pollution.  

  • Chemical spills

    Chemical spills can contaminate soil, groundwater, nearby waterways and harm human health.

    Common sources include: 

    • leaking containers 
    • poor secondary containment or ‘bunding’ to contain spills  
    • poor storage and handling. 

    EPA has information on how to store and handle liquids and solids.

  • Dust

    Dust can cause serious health complications, especially to respiratory and cardiovascular systems (including the heart and lungs), and can irritate eyes, throat and skin. It can also harm plants, animals and ecosystems.  

    Common sources include: 

    • woodworking 
    • landscaping 
    • cement works 
    • exposed piles of dirt 
    • grinding 
    • welding 
    • cutting or shredding materials 
    • carrying out activities on exposed soil.

    EPA has guidance on dust.

  • Erosion and sediment

    Erosion and sediment can cause pollution and contamination in waterways, to air, native plants and animals, as well as creating conditions that bring about floods.

    Common sources include: 

    • exposing bare soil or carrying out activities on exposed soil 
    • building and maintaining roads, rail, bridges, utilities, drainage, embankments and clay dams 
    • rehabilitating land  
    • excavating material, stockpiling, handling and transferring 
    • managing catchments.  

    EPA has guidance for business about reducing the risk of their activities causing erosion and sedimentation.

  • Fire and explosion emissions

    Fires and explosions can be an immediate threat to human life and property. They can produce contaminated runoff and toxic smoke, and spread dust.

    Common causes include:

    • smoking 
    • sparks 
    • hot surfaces 
    • poor storage 
    • electrical hazards 
    • dust 
    • arson. 
  • Noise

    Noise can disturb the community and present health risks, including: 

    • high blood pressure 
    • heart disease 
    • stress  
    • sleep disturbance. 

    Common sources include: 

    • machinery 
    • animals 
    • vibrations 
    • vehicle movement and beepers. 

    EPA has guidance and information on noise. 

  • Odour

    Odour can cause health issues like feeling sick and headaches. Some odours may also indicate the presence of toxic gases which can cause more serious issues. 

    Common sources include: 

    • storage and handling of waste  
    • chemical use 
    • sewage 
    • animals 
    • composting 
    • exhausts and ventilators 
    • food processing.

    EPA has guidance and information on odour.

  • Pathogens

    Pathogens are bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease.

    Common sources include: 

    • poor handling of waste 
    • overflowing septic tanks 
    • wastewater 
    • contaminated food products 
    • organic wastes 
    • animal waste and carcasses. 
  • Stormwater

    Stormwater drains connect to nearby creeks, rivers, wetlands and bays. Whatever goes into stormwater can have a big impact on the environment.

    Common sources of stormwater contamination include:

    • soil and sedimentation 
    • detergents and cleaning agents 
    • litter 
    • oil and grease 
    • cigarette butts 
    • site runoff.  

    EPA has guidance on stormwater

  • Waste

    Waste can pollute or contaminate the environment and harm human health.

    Waste can cause harm when it’s not properly: 

    EPA has guidance on waste and recycling and landfills.  

  • Wastewater

    Wastewater from business activities can carry harmful pollutants. 

    Common sources include: 

    • processing 
    • production 
    • manufacturing. 

    EPA has guidance on wastewater.

Small businesses can download and print posters that include information about common industry hazards and how to manage risks.
The posters are available for the following sectors:

Read more about managing risk

How to manage your environmental risk

Industry-specific hazards and risks  

Learn more about environmental issues

Reviewed 1 July 2021