Department of Health

Cooling tower systems and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008

The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (the Act) places several obligations on the owner of any land on which there is a cooling tower system. These include registering that system with the department, developing a Risk Management Plan (RMP) and having that plan independently audited by an approved auditor.

Overview

Landowners who have a cooling tower system on their property and every business that owns or operates a cooling tower system need to understand their responsibilities under the Victorian law and carefully consider the risks relating to their cooling tower system. 

A copy of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2009 can be downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website 

Failure to register a cooling tower system, prepare a Risk Management Plan (RMP) and audit the RMP is an offence under the Act.

The Act requires the owner of any land on which there is a cooling tower system to:

  • register each cooling tower system with the department. Registration periods are 1, 2 or 3 years, and there is a fee associated with registration.  
  • prepare and implement an RMP  for every cooling tower system on the site, which addresses the following five critical risk factors 
    • stagnant water, including lack of water recirculation in the cooling tower system, and the presence of dead-end pipework and other fittings in the system 
    • nutrient growth, including
      • the presence of biofilm, algae and protozoa in the cooling tower system; 
      • water temperature within a range that will support rapid growth of microorganisms in the system; and 
      • exposure of the water in the system to direct sunlight 
    • poor water quality in the cooling tower system, including the presence of solids, Legionella and high levels of microorganisms 
    • deficiencies in the cooling tower, including deficiencies in the physical design, condition and maintenance of the system 
    • location of, and public access to, the cooling tower or cooling tower system, including the potential for environmental contamination of the system and exposure of people to the aerosols of the system
  • have the RMP independently audited every year to confirm that it addresses the risk factors described in the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019,  and the critical risks in relevant Australian standards. The audit must also confirm that there is documented evidence that the plan is being satisfactorily implemented  
  • review the RMP at least once every year
  • address any matters raised in a report from any person engaged by the owner of the land or the owner of the cooling tower system that refers to control measures being inadequate or requiring improvement. 
  • set out the steps to be taken to ensure compliance with the maintenance, service and testing requirements described in the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 of a cooling tower system. For example, the plan will need to describe how you will respond to an adverse microbiological test result (such as the detection of Legionella or a high HCC result).

Risk management plan template

The owner of the land on which there is a cooling tower system must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a RMP is developed for the cooling tower system and continues to exist at all times the system is in operation.

Use the ‘Cooling tower system risk management plan template ’ as a guide to developing your RMP to ensure you comply with the requirements of the legislation. 

Registration holders to notify department 

A registration holder must notify the department by email within 30 days after the following change of details: 

Notify change of registration details

  • a change in the ownership of a land 
  • a change in the mailing address or contact details including mobile phone numbers and email addresses
  • a change in the numbers of cooling towers  in a cooling tower system 
  • the removal or permanent decommissioning  of the cooling tower system  
  • the relocation of the cooling tower system on the lot of land on which it stands. 

Registration and notification forms are available on the cooling tower forms and templates page.  

Department authorised officers 

The department’s authorised officers have been specifically appointed for the purposes of the Act.  The Act provides the authorised officers with extensive powers of entry to sites with cooling tower systems. 

Authorised offices are suitably qualified and trained to perform their roles in enforcing the requirements of the Act and the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 in relation to cooling tower systems. 

Authorised officers carry an identity card that contains their photograph and signature and is signed by the delegate of the Secretary to the Department of Health. 

Reviewed 06 November 2022

Health.vic

Contact details

Our phone service is available Monday to Friday, from 9.00am to 1.00pm. Postal address: GPO Box 4057, Melbourne Vic 3001

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