The Victorian government has asked WorkSafe to review whether tougher penalties are needed to crackdown on people illegally storing chemicals, after the discovery of several stockpiles in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, according to a report on ABC News.
The Victorian EPA recently uncovered illegal chemical stockpiles in seven warehouses across Melbourne’s north, which it said were linked to its investigation into last year’s West Footscray warehouse fire.
According to the EPA, if the chemicals discovered at four neighbouring sites in Epping and three sites across Campbellfield caught fire, they would pose a similar health and environmental risk to the West Footscray fire.
“The EPA’s recent discoveries suggested that stronger penalties may be required,” Victorian attorney-general Jill Hennessy told ABC News.
“Penalties under the Dangerous Goods Act, which can be up to $1 million for a corporation, are lower than the penalties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. So, I think its probably time for us to look at whether that difference is a little bit out of whack.
“The model around dangerous goods have required a lot of self-disclosure in the past and I think that we are going to have cause at the conclusion of this investigation to have a look at whether or not that’s fit for purpose.”
Currently, individuals who breach the Dangerous Goods Act in circumstances where they ought to have known the public or the environment would be put at risk face a maximum jail term of four years. According to Hennessy, that maximum jail term could be increased to five years.
“The tougher penalties will be considered as part of our work to strengthen the current system and make it clear that these rogue operators will not be tolerated,” Hennessy told ABC News.
“I think we’re entering a time where people have a much stronger expectation about good management when it comes to not just public health, but for those that might be unregistered and unregulated in these industries, they expect an active cop on the beat.”