Under the general environmental duty, you must understand the risks from your businesses activities and how to address them. What you need to do depends on how much risk your activities pose to human health and the environment.  

How to comply with the law

You must take reasonably practicable steps to minimise the risk of harm to human health and the environment from your business. Reasonably practicable means putting in controls proportionate to the risks. It relates to the state of knowledge about how to control risks.  

The state of knowledge is all the information you should reasonably know about managing risks for your business. This comes from reliable sources within your business, industry and government, including EPA.

Running a low-risk business

Low-risk businesses may only need to take basic steps to comply with the law. These include:

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

Your business can demonstrate risk management through the actions you take, including:

  • removing waste
  • keeping sites clean
  • keeping rubbish and chemicals out of stormwater drains.

Running a medium to high-risk business

Medium to high-risk businesses must take extra steps to reduce their risks. These include:

  • dry cleaners
  • petrol stations
  • oil refineries
  • businesses store or reprocess combustible recyclable and waste materials.

The activities these businesses do can pollute soil, groundwater, surface water and air if they’re done incorrectly. These activities can also produce harmful odours, noise and air pollution. Find out more about how to assess and control risk.

Meeting other obligations

There are specific duties for businesses generating or dealing with industrial waste

There are also specific duties for those in control of potentially contaminated land.

What EPA expects from your businesses

The way you respond, and your attitude to fixing damage or addressing any problems raised, will affect our assessment. Your business should work proactively to reduce the risk of harm to human health and the environment.

EPA expects businesses to be open and honest, manage risk proactively, and continually reduce risks to the environment. You must report non-compliance and contamination and respond when EPA raises issues. We respond more harshly to organisations that are uncooperative, dishonest or behave illegally.

We expect your business to have:

  • assessed risks of harm to human health and the environment
  • put processes in place to minimise risks
  • responded quickly and seriously to EPA’s advice and suggestions, making changes when needed
  • worked to minimise environmental impact and repair damage
  • answered questions, provided information and facilitated inspections
  • asked for advice when needed and taken suggestions on board.

Find out more about meeting your obligations

Read about managing low risk activities

Read about managing medium to high-risk risk activities

Read our Assessing and controlling risk guide

Use the self-assessment tool for small business to learn more about what you can do to manage risk

Find information and guidance for your industry

How we approach compliance and enforcement

Reviewed 10 March 2020