In August 2021 Dams Safety NSW (DSNSW) proposed amendments to the Dams Safety Regulation 2019 to enhance dam safety and the administration of the regulation.
These changes came into effect on 1 July 2022.
The amendments aim to ensure that key dam safety functions are undertaken and reviewed by individuals with appropriate competencies. This will strengthen the dams safety standards so that risks associated with dams are of a level that is acceptable to the community.
The Summary of Submissions Report summarises the submissions received by DSNSW in response to consultation on the proposed amendments conducted from 2 August 2021 to 17 September 2021.
Frequently asked questions
These Frequently asked questions provide more detailed information about the legislative changes.
What are the changes under the amended legislation?
From 1 July 2022 ALL declared dam owners must:
- ensure that a competent person signs off risk rating calculations
- provide the details of a contact person to Dams Safety NSW
- nominate an individual responsible for ensuring compliance with the dam safety management system
Owners of extreme, high A and high B consequence category dams ONLY must ensure that:
- an independent competent person reviews risk rating calculations
- a panel of at least 2 competent persons:
- undertakes safety reviews
- independently reviews safety reviews
- independently reviews work involving dam designs
The changes also allow Dams Safety NSW to better administer the Dams Safety Act more effectively by:
- correcting an error that omitted ‘environment’ as one of the safety goals for the design of the dam safety management system
- clarifying that the safety threshold value for dams undergoing major modification applies to augmentations only
- clarifying minor details in the Dams Safety Regulation 2019 and methodologies.
When must declared dam owners begin employing competent persons and competent panels?
Owners of extreme, high A and high B consequence category dams are required to use competent persons and competent panels from 1 July 2022 - the date the Regulation was made.
If a declared dam owner already commenced a risk rating assessment, safety review or design review before 1 July 2022, they may continue with arrangements that comply with the previous regulatory requirement.
When are declared dam owners required to provide contact details to DSNSW, and nominate an individual who is responsible for the Dam Safety Management System?
From 1 July 2022, the date the Regulation was made.
Nominating a contact person
Why must declared dam owners provide DSNSW with the name and contact details of a contact person?
In some instances, Dams Safety NSW has found it difficult to find the right person to talk to about a particular declared dam. This has been largely due to organisational personnel changes. In case of an emergency, delays in being able to contact the right person may put people at risk.
Maintaining up-to-date details for a contact person for Dams Safety NSW ensures that the Act and regulation can be administered efficiently and safely.
Does the contact person need to be part of the dam owner’s organisation?
Yes, the contact person needs to be part of the declared dam owner’s organisation. In some cases (for example privately owned dams), the declared dam owner could be the contact person.
Is a single contact person allowed for more than one declared dam?
Yes, a declared dam owner is able to nominate a single contact person for more than one declared dam.
How do I notify Dams Safety NSW of the contact person’s details?
Email Dams Safety NSW at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 9842 8073.
What if the contact person, or their contact details change?
Declared dam owners must notify Dams Safety NSW of the new details by emailing email@example.com or calling (02) 9842 8073.
How soon do I need to notify Dams Safety NSW after a change in contact person or their contact details?
Within 14 days of the change.
Nominating an individual responsible for the dam safety management system
Why is a declared dam owner required to nominate a person responsible for the dam safety management system?
Part 5 of the regulation requires a declared dam owner to implement a dam safety management system for the dam. The owner must maintain the dam safety management system so that it remains effective.
By nominating an individual responsible for the dam’s safety management system, the dam owner:
- ensures that a person has the responsibility for ensuring compliance with the dam safety management system
- provides Dams Safety NSW with a person who can discuss the maintenance of the dam safety management system
- has a person who can receive reports and notifications about the dam safety management system from Dams Safety NSW.
What does the individual do?
The individual acts on behalf of the owner and has responsibility for ensuring compliance with the dam safety management system.
Does the accountable individual need to be part of the dam owner’s organisation?
Yes, the individual needs to be part of the declared dam owner’s organisation. In some cases (for example privately owned dams), the declared dam owner would be the individual nominated in the dam safety management system.
Is a single individual allowed for more than one declared dam?
Yes, a declared dam owner is able to nominate a single responsible individual for more than one declared dam.
How do I nominate the individual?
The regulation requires a declared dam owner to produce a dam safety management system document. The name and contact details of the accountable individual must be listed in the dam safety management system document.
What if the accountable individual changes, or their contact details change?
The dam safety management system document for a dam needs to be updated within 14 days after a change in the name or contact details of the individual responsible for ensuring compliance with the dam safety management system.
Competent persons and competent panels
Why is a competent person required to sign off assessments of societal and individual risk ratings?
The regulation already requires that a competent person must carry out a consequence category assessment and review, a safety review and a review of dam design. Requiring that assessments of societal and individual risk ratings are signed off by a competent person is consistent with those existing regulation requirements.
This also reflects the specialised nature of the assessment and its importance in determining the safety of the dam.
In some cases, large consultancies use specialised staff who are not yet fully experienced and who do not yet meet the Regulation’s definition of a ‘competent person’. The competent person takes responsibility for the assessment by reviewing and signing off the assessment. It is also likely that risk assessments of societal and individual risk ratings for declared dams are already being signed off by competent persons, so amending the regulation largely reflects this practice.
For which dams do assessments of societal and individual risk ratings require independent review?
Similar to safety reviews, assessments of societal and individual risk ratings must be independently reviewed by a competent person for extreme, high A and high B consequence category dams. An independent review adds confidence that the assessments are appropriate for the dam.
Why is a team/panel of competent persons required for safety reviews, reviews of safety reviews and design reviews?
In September 2019 concerns were raised about the structural stability of Paradise Dam near Bundaberg in Queensland. An independent inquiry highlighted the importance of proper technical reviews throughout the lifecycle of a dam.
The current NSW regulation requires that a declared dam owner ensure that safety reviews, independent reviews of designs and reviews of safety reviews are undertaken by a competent person. A single competent person may not have all the expertise required for the reviews.
To address the issues raised by the Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry, and to ensure that all required areas of speciality are covered, a team/panel of competent persons must be used for these reviews.
Which declared dams require a competent team/panel for a safety review and an independent review of a safety review?
Extreme, high A and high B consequence category declared dams.
How many members, and with what qualifications, are required on a team/panel?
Each declared dam has unique requirements that reflect the characteristics of the dam site. The team/panel must be made up of at least two people and must cover the experience, training or professional qualifications in relation to each of the relevant specialities that apply to that particular dam.
High C consequence dams require a competent person for the reviews (the previous regulatory requirement).
For which dams is a competent panel required to review dam designs?
A panel is required to review dam designs (for new dams or any major modification to the dam) for extreme, high A and high B consequence category declared dams.
The panel must be at least two persons and must cover the experience, training or professional qualifications in relation to each of the relevant specialities that apply to that particular dam,.
High C consequence dams require a competent person for the review (the previous regulatory requirement).
Clarifying that the lower safety threshold applies to a major augmentation to the dam
Why is ‘major change’ replaced with ‘major augmentation’ in regulation clause 15 (4)?
Clause 15 (4)
…If the societal risk rating or highest individual risk rating for a dam is higher than the following (the safety threshold), the dam owner must forward a copy of the report to Dams Safety NSW as soon as practicable after the report is produced –
(a) societal risk rating for an existing dam (except as provided by paragraph (b))—0.001,
(b) societal risk rating for a proposed dam or for an existing dam that is to be subject to a major change augmentation - 0.0001.
In the previous wording of the regulation a ‘major change’ to a dam included all types of changes to the dam. However, some of these changes may have been intended to reduce dam risk levels (i.e. a dam safety upgrade) and not intended to enhance the capacity, functionality, or purpose of the dam. The applicable societal risk threshold should remain at the ‘existing dam’ value of 0.001 for this type of major change.
A major ‘augmentation’ to a dam extends the dam or creates a new use for the dam. Some examples include a permanent raising of the operating storage level of the dam; changing the dam/spillway configuration to cater for a new purpose such as flood mitigation.
The lower safety threshold of 0.0001 should apply to dams undergoing this type of major change.
The existing terminology adopted in the Societal and Individual Risk Rating Methodology also refers to the term ‘major augmentation’ in section 2(2), so amending the regulation aligns with this terminology.