Managing our risk

Our university operations are diverse and impact the environment in different ways. Some activities can have potential impacts that can be reduced, or avoided completely, through careful planning. To minimise these potential impacts we have implemented risk management and compliance procedures.

Complying with environmental law

Before you start any activity on campus grounds or in our buildings, it is important to understand your various legal responsibilities under environmental law. These will depend on the nature of your activity and degree of environmental risk.

The UNSW Compliance Directory sets out key federal and state government legislation relevant to university activities that could impact on the environment.

Be prepared

Assess the risk

You have a responsibility to undertake a risk assessment for your activities. Your risk assessment should consider normal operational issues and unplanned events or issues, for example spilling chemicals or causing environmental damage. 

Outside of the UNSW Environmental Management Plan it is each person’s responsibility to minimise the risks of pollution and nuisance.

Ensure you are prepared

In case there is an environmental incident or accident, take the following steps:

  • identify any possible unplanned outcome from your activity, such as a spill, fire, etc
  • follow an appropriate risk management process (if necessary consult Risk Advisory and Internal Audit Services or the Legal Office)
  • have appropriate spill and containment equipment or other appropriate environmental incident equipment readily available and accessible while undertaking an activity
  • don’t place yourself in danger while trying to manage it
  • try to contain, isolate or stop the source of the pollution or nuisance
  • that is too large or dangerous for you to manage yourself, contact UNSW Security.

Approvals and permits

Before starting some activities at UNSW you may require approvals, permits or other permissions. These may be centrally managed, for example by Facilities Management, by a Faculty on behalf of the University, or locally by the relevant schools, centres or departments.

There is no simple definition as to what activity may need a permit or approval, which government agency administers it and who is responsible for it. If you are uncertain as to whether your activity requires a permit, please contact the UNSW Legal Office for advice. 

If an issue arises, report it

After you have finished managing the issue, report the incident.

Reporting hazards and incidents

UNSW has an online reporting system (login via MyUNSW) for staff and students to report hazards or environmental incidents on any UNSW campus or site.

What should you report?

We all have a legal obligation under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to report incidents that cause or threaten environmental harm. Material harm to the environment includes anything that may not cause actual environmental harm but costs more than $10,000 to rectify. 

Please report any energy misuse, water leaks and spills, illegal dumping, gas leaks, and potential hazard or risks of harm to the environment.

How can you report it?

Inform your manager or supervisor as soon as you have identified a potential or actual hazard, then log a report to the online Health, Safety and Environment reporting system available through MyUNSW. In case of emergency call security at x56666.

What happens next?

Based on the risk assessment and severity of the issue your report will be dealt with and action taken at management and administrative level. If an environmental incident needs to be reported to authorities, UNSW Sustainability or the UNSW Legal Office will do so on your behalf.