General Environmental Duty

general environmental duty

Understanding your General Environmental Duty and Duty to Notify under the EP Act.

Under Victoria’s environmental regulatory regime which came into effect on 1st July 2021, the focus has been shifted from a reactive to a prevention-based approach, underpinned by the new General Environmental Duty (GED). The GED is a positive duty to proactively identify and manage environmental risk and is a shared responsibility of all Victorians.

The General Environmental Duty
states that:

“A person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to the risk of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable.”

The GED is intended to be enduring, flexible and fill regulatory gaps where no specific requirement exists in current legislation. For example, specific practices or technologies do not have to be identified upfront and the duty can apply to new hazards that emerge in the future.

hazardous materials assessment

Minimising Risks of Harm

According to the GED, the first step to determine what’s reasonably practicable in relation to the minimisation of risks is to identify the potential hazards or risks of harm that might exist or could come into existence. 

understanding your rights under the EP Act
It is essential to set in place steps to follow and pay due consideration to:

Remedial Notices and Penalties under General Environmental Duty

A breach or a threatened breach of the GED will trigger the Environment Protection Authority (EPA)’s capacity to issue a notice, such as improvement and prohibition notices or notices to investigate and environment action notices, so that the problem can be remedied quickly.

Failure to comply with the General Environmental Duty results in civil liability and criminal penalties of:

There are additional penalties if the breach of the General Environmental Duty is aggravated, meaning it is intentional or reckless:

How We Can Help Your Business Follow the Environment Protection Act

All businesses are required to ensure compliance with the GED such as risk identification, risk assessment and risk mitigation. Helia EHS provides consultation on the EP Act 2017 and businesses’ obligations including:

  • Evaluation of the nature of historic land uses and activities at the specified sites to assess “duty to manage” and assess potential contamination sources.
  • Assess whether historic land uses and activities at the specified sites trigger a “duty to notify” under the EP Act 2017.
  • Provide advice on possible management protocols and site investigations that may be required at the specified sites consistent with the EP Act 2017.
  • Review existing environmental management plans (EMPs), in-house risk assessments and environmental assessment reports to assess for the presence of possible contaminating activities and contamination sources.
  • Conduct desktop history reviews to assess for the presence of potential contamination sources associated with historic land uses and activities.
  • Conduct site inspections to check for the presence of potential contamination sources, activities, infrastructure, migration pathways and sensitive receptors.
  • Interview site personnel with knowledge of site operations and infrastructure to obtain further information in relation to potential contamination sources, activities, infrastructure and pathways.
  • Develop conceptual site models for each site to assess the nature and likelihood of risks to environmental values protected under The Act.
environmental audit

How We Help Maintain General Environmental Duty Standards

Helia EHS can develop and provide training and education programs covering a broad range of topics and audiences:

General Environmental Duty Regulations: The Value of External Communication

External communication can encourage adherence to your GED with more precision by:

GED regulations

Taking preventative action will protect businesses against potentially significant costs for serious breaches in the future. To find out more about the General Environmental Duty (GED) and your responsibilities under the EP Act 2017, contact Helia EHS today.


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