Risk assessment process

Information about the risk-based licensing risk assessment process.

Risk assessments are undertaken by EPA officers in consultation with licensees. A risk assessment tool developed by the EPA is used to evaluate the impacts associated with a licensed premises and the likelihood of environmental harm occurring. The risk assessment process is an opportunity for licence holders and EPA officers to discuss the environmental performance of individual premises and how improvements to operations can be put in place if needed.

The process considers the following components

  1. the day-to-day operations at the site, including the type (air – including odour, water and noise emissions) and nature of emissions from the premises
  2. the risk of a pollution incident, by examining the pollution-control measures in place at the premises, and its proximity to sensitive environments and receptors (as well as their level of sensitivity)
  3. the environmental management performance of the licensee

Regulatory priority

The first two components of the risk assessment result in a regulatory priority level being allocated for each environmental media (air, water and noise emissions) and the pollution incident risk. The methodology for calculating regulatory priorities for each of the environmental media has been formulated to consider the residual risks that activities pose for the environment and for human health after pollution control and mitigation measures have been taken into consideration. In determining the regulatory priority the EPA will take into account

  • the type and nature of emissions from the premises
  • pollution control measures used at the premises
  • proximity to sensitive environments and receptors
  • level of sensitivity of the environment and receptors

Environmental management category

The third component of the assessment examines the environmental management performance of a licensee at the licensed premises and results in the allocation of an environmental management category, which takes into account

  • a licensee's compliance history and regulatory actions undertaken by the EPA in response to any incidents and non-compliances
  • the management systems and practices a licensee has in place to control and mitigate environmental risks
  • environment improvement programs initiated by the licensee.

The environmental management category is also used in the calculation of the licence administrative fee. See the Environmental management calculation protocol for further information.

Overall environmental risk level

The results of the risk assessment are used to determine the overall environmental risk associated with the licensed activity: from Level 1, to Level 3, with Level 3 being the highest risk.

The risk assessments assist the EPA to focus its regulatory activities on high risk licensees. Licensees with a higher risk level receive an increased level of regulatory and compliance oversight, whereas licensees with a lower risk level benefit from reduced red tape and a reduced regulatory burden. A higher risk level may result in more intensive monitoring and reporting obligations on the licence.

Environmental risk levels for each licence will be made available on the EPA's Public Register as they are determined, providing the community with more information about the environmental risks and environmental performance of individual licensees, and the EPA's regulatory decisions.

It should be noted that assessments are based on the environmental risks associated with a premises-based activity. The risk assessment process does not apply to licences issued for the transport of trackable waste.

For further information on what the EPA considers when defining risks posed by licensed activities under risk-based licensing risk refer to regulatory priority and risk.

Reviews of licence risk levels

Regulatory priorities will usually be reviewed by the EPA every five years, though may be undertaken more regularly as a result of

  • non-compliances reported in annual returns
  • completion of pollution reduction programs (PRPs)
  • an environmental incident
  • a change in operations at a premises

Environmental management categories are assessed every 12 months, in conjunction with the receipt of the annual return, and are based on a licensee's regulatory performance at their premises over a three-year period. Any annual changes in environmental management category associated with the licensed activity could result in a change in the licensed activity's overall environmental risk level.

Licence risk level appeal and internal review

Licensees can request the EPA to review the risk level allocated to their activities. The EPA has developed internal review guidelines (PDF 136KB) to assist licensee request a review. Licensees requesting a review of licence risk levels should contact the EPA to discuss the matter. Licensees must fill out the application form to formally request a review of the licensed activity's risk level.

Please note that the existing external review mechanisms (judicial review and merit appeals processes) regarding the EPA's environment protection licensing decisions are also available to licensees.

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