Health requirements for mining and construction camps
This page explains the Department of Health Environmental Health Branch requirements for mining camps and construction camps in the Northern Territory (NT).
Food business registration
If you run a camp kitchen you may need to register as a food business.
A camp kitchen is considered a food business if food is handled and offered or given away to an employee, either for sale or as part of a contract. Read the Food Act 2004.
If your camp kitchen operates as a food business, you will need to register with the Environmental Health Branch.
To find out more about national food safety requirements, go to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.
Get your camp kitchen checked and registered
You can get your camp kitchen checked and registered as a food business by an environmental health officer.
There are environmental health officers based in:
- Tennant Creek
- Alice Springs.
Depending on the location of the facility, an environmental health officer can arrange a site visit to inspect your facility and give you advice on fit-out and operation.
They can also provide advice by assessing properly drawn up plans and detailed scoping of food operations of your kitchen.
In some cases, you may be able to get your food business registered without a site visit if you can provide sufficient information to show your camp kitchen will comply with Food Safety Standards.
This may include details of a food safety program, along with plans and photographs of completed fit-outs.
Where possible, environmental health officers will visit and inspect your food business to check compliance and give you advice.
It is your responsibility as the food business proprietor to produce safe food and demonstrate safe practices.
If the Environmental Health Branch receives a complaint or reports of illness from a camp, they will carry out a site visit and investigate to identify any non-compliance. This may include failing to be registered as a food business.
Staff accommodation and sanitary facilities
Staff accommodation doesn't need Department of Health approval. However, it must be maintained in a good state of repair and in a clean and sanitary condition so as not to cause a public health nuisance.
The Public and Environmental Health Guidelines for Public Accommodation outline the general requirements for conducting a public accommodation business, such as the need to prevent overcrowding and provide an acceptable standard of sanitation, amenity and safety.
Adequate numbers of sanitary facilities must be provided in accordance with the National Construction Code and relevant NT legislation.
On-site wastewater management
On-site wastewater management (OSWM) using septic tank systems is often the most suitable option for camps that have no major site constraints and have less than 20 staff.
Larger camps may need to consider a secondary treatment system or waste stabilisation ponds.
For camps in regional areas, connection to the town’s reticulated sewerage is required.
In all cases, advice should be sought from a qualified hydraulic consultant about the most suitable method of OSWM.
For more information, read about wastewater management.
Trade waste pre-treatment devices
Trade waste is defined as a 'liquid or liquid borne waste generated from any industry, business, trade, manufacturing process or similar that is approved for discharge to sewer but does not include wastewater from a toilet, shower, hand basin or similar fixture'.
It is not recommended that trade waste be discharged to an OSWM system, however, commercial food premises at the camp may prepare cooked food generating liquid trade waste that includes food scraps, detergents, fats, oils and grease.
This liquid trade waste has a substantial impact on an OSWM system, and if not contained by pre-treatment equipment will cause system failure. All greasy liquid trade waste must be discharged to sewer through a pre-treatment device that has been approved by Power and Water Corporation’s Trade Waste Section.
Waste stabilisation ponds
Waste stabilisation ponds, also known as sewage ponds, are commonly used in the NT for the treatment of wastewater before final disposal.
Legislation controls the reuse or disposal of treated sewage effluent. This legislation is enforced by the Department of Health and the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA).
The discharge of treated sewage effluent to land or water may therefore occur, but only in accordance with pertinent legislation, or in its absence, to any reasonable conditions imposed by the relevant authority.
Where treated sewage effluent is proposed to be discharged to a waterway and where the discharge does not have a potential to impact on public health, the Department of Health will liaise with the NT EPA as part of the approval process.
Consideration will be given to the reuse/irrigation of treated sewage effluent in controlled public access areas, constructed and operated for this express purpose.
For more information, read about wastewater management.
Any proposal to construct waste stabilisation ponds at a camp requires Department of Health approval.
Potable water supply
Managers of private water supplies (such as rainwater tanks or private bores) servicing camps, should have water routinely analysed to make sure it is safe as part of their risk management routine.
If water is provided to staff the potable water supply should comply with the 2011 NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).
Read the guidelines on the Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council website.
The Australia New Zealand Food Safety Standards require every food business to be supplied with potable water, which is particularly relevant to premises using private water supplies.
For the purpose of the annual Food Act registration food business owners must demonstrate to the Department of Health that they have a potable water supply.
This includes arrangement for a certified analysis of the water to confirm the water meets the requirements of the ADWG. This may be an annual credible analysis of a kitchen tap sample showing 'pass' in total coliform and E. coli.
Read more about private water supplies in food businesses.
Bores constructed within a water control district need a bore construction permit from the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security.
Bore setbacks to OSWM systems shall be in accordance with the NT Code of Practice for On-site Wastewater Management.
Fuel storage facilities should be discussed with NT WorkSafe.
Reference should be made to AS 1940-2004 (and amendments) Storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.
Occupational health and safety
Camps are expected to comply with NT WorkSafe legislation throughout their entire construction and operation phases.
Solid waste management
The Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998 requires that certain waste management activities be licensed or approved by NT EPA.
An NT EPA approval for a landfill (rubbish dump) is not required if the landfill is for domestic waste generated on the premises or domestic waste from temporary construction camps.
An NT EPA licence for a landfill is required if the camp serves a permanent population of more than 1,000 persons or if the project operations generate hazardous waste.
Providing the landfill does not have to be licensed or approved by NT EPA, then you will still need to demonstrate to the Department of Health that the camp’s landfill meets best practice and will not cause a public health nuisance.
Reference should be made to the Guidelines for Siting, Design and Management of Solid Waste Disposal Sites in the Northern Territory 2003, which can be downloaded from the NT EPA website.
Public health nuisance
The construction and operation of the camp must not create a public health nuisance, in particular from dust or other particulate matter.
Note that a building and insurance policy may be invalidated if you fail to follow the relevant approval processes and fire safety requirements.
For more information, contact Environmental Health.
Last updated: 15 June 2020
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