2023 – Consideration of Voluntary Risks in the Determination of Regulatory Obligations for Dam Safety

Rob Fowden, Chris Nielsen

Queensland’s regulatory approach to dam safety, described in relevant legislation, considers a lower limiting life safety threshold of two or more population at risk subject to a number of legislated and physical conditions. Regulatory guidelines to support this approach focus on methods to determine population at risk within places of occupation. Consideration of population at risk on roads or pedestrians is not mandatory.

Recent inquiries into regulatory thresholds, in particular those instances where a decision on whether or not to impose regulatory oversight is required, highlight a variety of opinion and approaches as to who is or isn’t exposed to a life safety risk.

A review indicates an intent of the regulatory approach to primarily consider involuntary risk taking.

The paper discusses the rationale for this position and describes circumstances where itinerant population at risk, including those on roads, may be considered as being exposed to an involuntary dam safety risk. The paper notes that the opinion of the regulator does not exclude a dam owner, who is the entity primarily responsible for dam safety, from considering their own position on addressing voluntary risks.

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