Amendments to the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (Vic) (Act) introducing new dangerous goods related offences and harsher penalties for non-compliance commenced 7 November 2019 following a swift passage through parliament.
The Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Bill 2019 (Vic), was introduced as part of the Victorian Government’s response to the discovery of approximately 6.5 million litres of waste chemicals illegally abandoned in warehouses in Western Victoria. It also directly addresses the dangers faced by fire and emergency service workers responding to illegal and toxic stockpiles fires. Metropolitan Fire & Emergency Services Board (MFB) submission to the Victoria Legislative Council Environment noted that the MFB had responded to 20 fires involving toxic stockpiles in Victoria. The MFB expressed concerns about workers exposed to health hazards when fires involve illegal, non-compliant and unidentified toxic chemical.
18 of the 20 fires in the MFB’s report were at licensed facilities. Businesses receiving, storing or producing toxic waste should review current practices and take action where necessary.
The legislative amendments:
The swift passage of the amendments indicate the Victorian Government’s support for the EPA’s ongoing efforts to tackle illegal dumping of wastes. The EPA’s Illegal Dumping Strikeforce program was also extended and given additional funding for expanding its use of drone technology with ground penetrating radar to detect buried illegal waste.
The new offence inserted under section 31D(1) of the Act makes it an offence to recklessly engage in activities that would or may place someone in danger of death without a lawful excuse. These activities include:
This new offence carries a penalty of:
The Act has also increased the penalties for several offences. For example, under section 31C, where a person fails to comply with a relevant provision and knew or ought reasonably to have known that the failure would or would likely endanger the safety or health of a person, property or the environment, the penalty has been increased to:
The relevant penalties were also doubled for offences such as:
The Act defines dangerous goods with reference to the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. It includes substances that may cause:
Common examples include:
The Victoria Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management concluded on 28 November 2019. The report now available here outlines the Committee’s recommendations for addressing Victoria’s waste crisis, based on over 700 submissions. The Government is due to respond to the recommendations in March 2020.
While we wait for the outcomes of those recommendations the waste industry should ensure that it’s stockpiles are compliant and it has adequate procedures in place for dangerous goods.
Posted on: 20 December 2019