Compliance inspections of non-scheduled premises

Aim of this document

This document aims to help council officers ensure that their compliance inspections of non-scheduled premises cover the necessary environmental concerns.

What are compliance inspections for?

Compliance inspections are a way of systematically assessing the level of compliance with environmental regulations and related statutory conditions. They may vary in scope according to the particular needs and objectives. As a minimum, an inspection should:

  • check whether the premises are complying with environmental laws 
  • check the environmental impact of activities on the site
  • recommend what the manager can do to improve the environmental performance of the premises.

Acts under which councils have power in environmental management

In New South Wales councils currently have power under the following Acts in relation to environmental management.

Power of entry

Enforcement directions

Council may serve notices under the following Acts:

Legal action

What to do before the inspections 

Gather all the available information relevant to the premises, including:

  • the name and address of the premises and the type of industry
  • the contact person's or manager's name
  • details of any previous visits or inspection reports
  • details of any complaints or community concerns
  • details of the activities occurring on the site and their likely environmental impact.

It is usual to contact the management to arrange a suitable time to visit. Arrange to have someone who can speak for the management with you during the inspection. Commonly compliance inspections cover routine matters, such as checking that good records are being maintained, so it is reasonable to give several days' notice to make sure that information is available and that someone is present to speak for the management. You may also wish to find out from management about any Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) requirements for the site and carry with you the necessary personal protective equipment when visiting the site.

If the objective of the visit is to determine whether there is current pollution, an unannounced visit may be appropriate.

Become aware of the potential environmental impact of activities on the site. Familiarise yourself with the relevant laws and environmental guidelines; you may use the DEC or industry specific guidelines as reference material. It may help to prepare a checklist of the important points you need to see or discuss during the site inspection.

Inspecting the site

Be prepared for the inspection before you enter the premises. Know what you need to look at and prepare yourself for the issues you will need to discuss.

Meet the company manager/representative and explain why you are there.

Go through the inspection systematically. Use your checklist(s) to record observations and the information you get from the company representative or operators. Record further notes and observations in your field book.

If you notice any contraventions of the legislation during the inspection make notes and take all relevant information (such as photographs) and statements.

If you take samples during the inspection make sure you do it according to legal procedures. In general, a water sample should be collected such that the sample is representative of the condition being investigated and in a manner consistent with the collection, handling and preservation principles in:

  • Standards Association of Australia (1998) AS/NZS 5667.1:1998, and
  • APHA (1995) section 1060.

For soil samples, the former EPA released Sampling Design Guidelines for Contaminated Sites that give details of how and where samples should be collected and statistical aspects of sampling. All information concerning the sample including sample collection and the sample source should be recorded in a notebook.

When you finish give some general feedback on your preliminary findings and explain what the company will have to do to improve its performance. You may need to explain to the company representative what the law and guidelines require. Tell the company that you will give details of the inspection results and recommendations in a follow­-up letter. Tell them when it is likely to arrive.

The follow-up

Evaluate all the information you have gathered during the site inspection, assess how the premises complies with environmental laws and prepare a formal report. In the report put

  • your assessment of the compliance and enough details to verify your assessment
  • all actions you recommend to remedy non­-compliance or improve the environmental performance
  • the time frame for each recommended action.

Ensure that the recommendations of the report are feasible; you may invite the management to comment on the recommendations.

Follow the report up with any necessary letters, directions or legal proceedings.

Confirm your inspection results in a letter to the management as soon as possible after the inspection. Describe the findings of your assessment and the overall environmental performance of the premises. Mention the issues that concern you and recommend the actions the management should take. Attach relevant guidelines if you need to. If you have to do a follow-up visit, tell the management when and why you are coming.

The summary results of the compliance inspections provide information for council's State of the Environment Report on the theme 'polluted areas', and should also be linked to council's three year management plan.

In this guideline is an example of a compliance inspection report form. You may prefer to make up your own standard form.


When you are going out to do a compliance inspection of a non-scheduled premises, be prepared.

Make sure you check whether the premises is complying with environmental laws and what environmental impact its activities are having.

In your report put all your recommendations for improving the environmental performance of the premises.

Further information

A Compliance Audit Handbook (1997) has been developed by the former EPA to help officers do compliance audits of scheduled premises. It contains standard protocols and procedures for the EPA's Compliance Audit Program. Council officers may find this handbook useful as a general guide for doing compliance inspections of non-scheduled premises.


APHA. 1998. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Waste Water. 20th Edition, American Public Health Association, USA.

Standards Association of Australia. 1998. AS/NZS 5667.1:1998: Water Quality - Sampling- Part 1: Guidance on the design of Sampling Programs, Sampling Techniques and the Preservation and Handling of Samples. Homebush, NSW.

Further reading

In this manual

Powers of Authorised Officers


Brown, G. A. 2004, Environmental Audit Guidebook. Centre for Professional Development (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Sample format for a compliance inspection report



PHONE NO:                                     FAX NO:










Complete by:










Further comments:

Signature of inspecting officer:

Date: dd/mm/yy

Phone no.


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