Owner-builders, builders and landscapers are responsible for any air pollution and emissions they cause, including:

  • dust
  • particulate matter
  • motor vehicle emissions
  • smoke
  • odours caused by resins, adhesives, caulking compounds, waterproofing and sealants etc.

Air pollution standards

Air pollution can affect the health and well-being of people, animals and vegetation.

Building and development sites must not exceed the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM) for Ambient Air Quality. You must ensure that your construction site complies with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1993 (POEO Act).

  • On-site traffic movements
  • Transferring materials and waste
  • Earthmoving and excavation
  • Unpaved access roads and pathways
  • Masonry activity (preparing concrete, mixing cement and mortar, cutting stone and bricks)
  • Concrete drilling and cutting
  • Wind erosion from stockpiled material
  • Smoke and emissions from engines

Any hazardous materials on construction sites must be removed before any other activities commence. These include (but are not limited to):

  • lead-based paints
  • asbestos
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from old fluorescent light fittings and transformers
  • chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons in refrigeration and fire safety systems

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SafeWork NSW specify management protocols for these types of materials.

How should construction site air pollution be managed?

Air pollution sources should be identified early so appropriate management can be implemented.

Large and complex construction activities may require an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) as a condition of consent. The EMP will address air quality and other environmental issues.

  • Retain vegetation. Even small amounts of vegetation can significantly reduce dust.
  • Apply water sprays to suppress airborne dust generated from stockpiles, access ways and roads during demolition and earth-moving activities. Wash vehicle wheels before they leave the site. Keep disturbed earth surfaces moist until vegetation can re-establish.
  • Manage stockpiles in accordance with the guidelines in Landcom Blue Book Volume 1: Managing Urban Stormwater, Soils and Construction. These guidelines include:
    • removing materials from the downwind side of stockpiles
    • covering stockpiles with vegetation if they are to be exposed for longer than four weeks
    • covering stockpiles with mulched green waste or another suitable covering if they are to be exposed for fewer than four weeks
    • planning to carry out work in stages to minimise the areas of disturbed earth.
  • Ensure exhausts from generators and power units are in well-ventilated areas.
  • Apply foul-smelling materials in stages and when the wind direction and strength will minimise the impact. A windsock can help workers be aware of conditions.
  • Install air pollution monitoring equipment or gauges. Cease operations when emissions exceed relevant health standards (NSW EPA and NEPM) and/or the average wind speeds exceed 15 metres per second.
  • Erect physical barriers or windbreaks. Use screening materials such as shade cloth on three sides where possible. The screening material used must be able to stop at least 50% of the dust moving through it.