Under the Dams Safety Regulation 2019, owners of extreme or high consequence category declared dams need to engage competent persons or panels of competent persons to undertake reviews of some reports and assessments, and when their dams are being designed. Declared dams with consequence categories of significant or below do not need to be reviewed.
When do my dam reports and assessments need to be reviewed?
Consequence category assessment
If a consequence category assessment concludes your dam is an extreme, high A, high B, or high C consequence dam, the assessment must be reviewed by a competent person who has not been involved in the assessment process (Clause 7).
Societal and individual risk rating assessment
If your dam is an extreme, high A or high B consequence category dam, the societal risk rating and the highest individual risk rating must be reviewed by another competent person who is independent of the persons who carried out and signed off the risk calculation (Clause 15).
If your dam is an extreme, high A or high B consequence category dam, your safety review must be reviewed by a panel of at least 2 independent competent persons. If the dam is a high C consequence category dam, the safety review needs to be reviewed by an independent competent person (Clause 20).
Dam design work
If your dam is an extreme, high A, or high B consequence category dam, you must ensure that relevant design work for the dam is reviewed by a panel of at least 2 independent competent persons. If you own a high C consequence category dam, relevant design work for the dam needs to be reviewed by an independent competent person (Clause 24).
What does ‘independent’ mean?
A reviewer is independent if:
- the reviewer has not been involved in the work (ie. did not undertake part or all of the work under review)
- the reviewer is not an employee of the entity which undertook the work under review
- the reviewer is not an employee of the dam owner.
A reviewer must be independent of every person who has carried out the work.
What is the definition of ‘competent person’?
The Dams Safety Regulation 2019 includes a definition of a competent person:
competent person means, for a person exercising a function in relation to a dam, a person who -
(a) has acquired through training, qualification and experience substantial knowledge and skills in dam design or risk analysis in relation to that type of dam, and
(b) is -
- registered under a law that provides for the registration of professional engineers, or
- a member (or is qualified to be a member) of Engineers Australia with the status of Chartered Professional Engineer,
- or entered on the National Professional Engineers Register administered by the Institution of Engineers Australia,
- or the holder of professional qualifications in a relevant speciality
What is a review panel?
The Dams Safety Regulation 2019 requires a minimum of 2 competent persons for a review panel.
However, the Regulation also specifies that the competent persons on the panel together must have the training, qualification and experience in each relevant speciality that relates to the safety review or design. This means the panel must have enough members to cover all the specialties needed for a safety review or design. A panel would therefore need to be larger for a complex dam built on a site that has a more complex geology.
How to conduct the review
Declared dam owners are responsible for planning reviews and selecting and engaging suitable reviewers.
Owners should ensure:
- the reviewer(s) have access to all relevant documents and data
- reviewers are involved at key milestone points or stages in the analysis process (but the dam owner should also ensure they maintain appropriate independence from the analysis team)
- the reviewer(s) understand their role is:
- to pass judgment on the soundness of inputs, analysis methods and outputs
- to raise questions, challenge the analysis team and explore alternatives (as appropriate)
- not to verify computations (although reviewers may frequently carry out check calculations and it makes sense to raise errors found in the analysis team’s work)
- the analysis team does not shift accountability for the work to the reviewer(s)
- the review report is a stand-alone document
Reviews may take a variety of forms, including meetings and circulation of documentation. Reviewers may progressively assess outputs to confirm their suitability.