COVID-19 information for environmental authority holders

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) acknowledges that the ongoing pandemic is having an impact on our community and industry. The Queensland Government is continuing to respond to the pandemic by implementing a range of initiatives and the Chief Health Officer’s (CHO) public health directions (health directions). Keep up to date with government initiatives and CHO directions at www.covid19.qld.gov.au

If you hold an environmental authority or other approval issued by the department and are concerned about your ability to meet your obligations, please communicate with us early so that we can discuss ways to manage any risks to the environment.

Please also engage with us early if you are looking to submit an application for an approval or an amendment so that we can action it as efficiently as possible.

The best method to communicate with us is through your local departmental contact or through our general inquiries at:

  1. Telephone: 1300 130 372
  2. Email: palm@des.qld.gov.au

What the department is doing

We are continuing to meet our responsibilities as Queensland’s environmental regulator. This includes the implementation of our own continuity plans to maintain service delivery. We are maximising flexible working arrangements to protect our staff, whilst still delivering our risk-based compliance program, responding to pollution events and servicing applications for new approvals or amendments.

We are committed to working closely with industry bodies to minimise the environmental risks and impacts being experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are also supporting Queensland Government’s initiatives and health directives to protect our communities and industry including providing staff to assist with whole-of-government or Queensland Health.

What we ask you to do

If you hold an environmental authority or other approval administered by the department, please ensure that you have reviewed, updated and, if necessary, implemented your business continuity plans to account for reduced supply and also reduced workforce availability.

We also expect you to take all reasonable and practicable measures to comply with your environmental obligations and prevent unlawful environmental harm.

If you believe that your measures will still not meet your environmental obligations, please communicate with us early so that we can discuss ways to manage any risks to the environment.

What you can expect from us

We will continue to service applications for new or amended environmental approvals as efficiently as possible and within statutory timelines.

We will continue to deliver a risk-based proactive and reactive compliance program as well as respond to pollution incidents. This will be done in a manner that maximises the safety or our staff and the people they interact with. We will conform with all reasonable safety and protective measures that operators have in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spread, whilst still meeting our regulatory obligations.

Enforcement decisions, such as prosecutions, infringements and statutory notices will continue to be based on our Enforcement Guidelines (PDF, 360.6KB) . However, like with other disasters or significant events, the impact of COVID-19 will be taken into account where an operator has taken reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise the harm.

Critical essential worker list submissions

The Chief Health Officer has issued the Isolation for Diagnosed Cases of COVID-19 and Management of Close Contacts direction. This requires a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and close contacts to quarantine, however a person may leave the premises where they are in quarantine to perform work listed as a critically essential role as part of a defined critical industry. Further information on critical essential worker requirements is available on the Queensland Government website.

The critical worker list process is an employer driven, self-assessment process. The employer of a close contact required for work must undertake a self-assessment against the criteria specified in the directive and submit their list to the Queensland Government at https://healthserviceportal.health.qld.gov.au/hdsp

You do not need approval from the government for your close contact employee to return to work. However, you must meet the notification requirements of the direction, namely:

  1. Identify yourself as an industry on the critical industry list
  2. Create a critical worker list of critically essential roles. The list must include:
    • business name and details
    • the titles of the critical roles (you do not need to include the names of staff)
    • a reason why each role is considered critically essential.
  3. Submit the critical worker list the Queensland Government within three days of the employee attending work.

Additionally, you must ensure that you comply with all the requirements of the health direction such as undertaking a risk assessment, record keeping, undertaking Rapid Antigen Testing and the worker being in a critical essential role.

Employer submissions relating to waste management operations are referred to the department for review. The Queensland Government does not approve the submission, however, the department will advise the employer if more information is required or if the submission is invalid because it does not meet the critical industry or critical essential worker roles criteria. If a company does not meet the criteria, then their close contact employee must quarantine in accordance with the health direction. Failure to comply with the direction may lead to enforcement action.

It is important to remember that the health direction is a protective measure to support the community and your workforce. The exemption should only be utilised if you meet the criteria and where you have exhausted all other options.