Drone inspections to reduce waste and resource recycling fires

waste fires
Environment Protection Authority Victoria will use drone flyovers this summer to check waste and resource recovery businesses are doing all they can to prevent fires breaking out.
As summer temperatures rise, so does the potential for fires at facilities that store waste materials. EPA’s Fire Prevention Program plans to operate random flyovers using drones and thermal imaging technology to check for hot spots, ensure waste piles are being properly managed and fire risks have been reduced.
“We’ve seen in the past that fires at waste and recycling facilities are potentially devastating. They represent an unacceptable risk to Victorians, the environment and industry, and could result in clean-up costs in the millions of dollars,” EPA Acting Executive Director Operations Rachel Gualano said.

“Our summer Fire Prevention Program will target high risk sites with inspections by our officers from the ground and in the air using our Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) drone team.
“We’re sending a message to waste and recycling operators; there’s no excuse for failing to properly manage their fire risk and if they haven’t or won’t, EPA will use its powers to enforce compliance with the regulations.”
Between November 2022 and October 2023, 380 fire prevention inspections of waste and recovery facilities were conducted by EPA, resulting in five facilities being fined, 117 remedial notices issued and four official warnings as well as providing advice on 400 occasions.
In addition, EPA has six active prosecutions against facilities where fires occurred needlessly because they had not taken the preventative measures they should have.
“Our summer campaign is a multi-agency activity to improve industry’s awareness of fire risks, the updated EPA guidance documents that show businesses how to prevent and manage the risk of fire, and proactively engage with industry,”  Gualano said.
“EPA’s teams found that despite regular contact, up to 60 per cent of operators were not fully complying with environmental regulations in some way.
“Where appropriate, advice for minor non-compliances was given but legally enforceable orders for the more serious hazards have also been issued, to ensure each business is addressing any issues on its site.”  
Some of the hazards and unsafe practices found include the improper management and storage of combustible and recyclable waste, failing to identify risks on site and inadequate maintenance of fire suppression equipment. In some instances, non-compliances were issued for failure to maintain controls in good working order. 
Under Victoria’s new environment protection law, duty holders must understand fire risks and use appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce them.
“When EPA says it has zero tolerance to fire hazards, we mean fire is not an option,” Gualano said.
For more information, visit: www.epa.vic.gov.au


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