Public health and safety
On this page:
We have a role in protecting community safety by inspecting and controlling environmental issues which can impact public health.
Here you can find out information about asbestos and what to do if you find it in Merri-bek.
Asbestos materials were mostly used in the building industry from 1940 to 1980. There is now a ban on using asbestos products.
Asbestos in Victoria provides advice from key state government agencies to help homeowners, tenants, employers and workers understand more about asbestos.
Which products contain asbestos
The main household building materials containing asbestos are asbestos cement products. These are also called 'fibro' or 'AC sheeting.'
Other asbestos cement products that may be found around the home include:
- flat or corrugated sheeting
- water or flue pipes
- roof shingles
- flexible building boards
- imitation brick cladding
- vinyl floor tiles, and
- backing of linoleum floor covering.
What are the health risks of asbestos?
Generally, having asbestos in home building materials is not a health risk unless the material is broken, coming apart or disturbed in a such a way that it produces dust containing asbestos fibres.
Asbestos can be a health risk when you remove, package, transport or dispose of it. If you do need to move or disturb asbestos, you need to be careful. Asbestos in Victoria provides information about how to safely do this.
There are also specific requirements regarding how waste asbestos is packed and labelled, and where it can be disposed of.
A list of places that can legally accept waste asbestos is on the EPA's Prescribed Industrial Waste Database. If you need help finding this information, you can contact the EPA Information Centre.
The Asbestos Awareness campaign video can teach you more about where to find asbestos in the home,
If you see a tradesperson working on a property and you have concerns about how they are handling asbestos please contact WorkSafe Victoria.
Remember, it is illegal to put asbestos in the bin or as hard waste.
Lead is a toxic substance that can affect people of any age, but it is especially harmful to children, pregnant women, and unborn babies. Paint containing lead was commonly used before the 1970s in many Australian homes, so it is important to know about.
Lead paint can sometimes be found on:
- window frames
- skirting boards
- kitchen and bathroom cupboards
- exterior walls
- metal surfaces
- interior walls and ceilings
- areas with enamel paint.
When is lead paint a problem and how can you avoid it?
Unless paint in your home is damaged, lead paint is not a problem. If the paint is still in good condition, or if it has been covered by another layer of lead-free paint, then you are not at risk.
However, it is important to be alert in case the paint in your home becomes damaged or exposed. This can sometimes happen in spots that are used more, such as doors, windows or stair railings. This can also happen if you are renovating and try to remove paint. You or others in your home may accidentally breath in lead paint particles.
We recommend that you do not disturb any surface in your home that is covered in lead paint, or is covering up lead paint underneath. If you are doing any work around the home on areas that are covered in old paint, it is very important that you be careful and make sure you, your family, your neighbours or your pets do not come into contact with lead paint or its residue.
An experienced home handyperson can repaint a house containing lead if they take the recommended precautions. So it is a good idea to hire someone for this. We also recommended that you hire a professional for any big or complicated jobs, or if you do not have the right equipment to keep yourself safe.
Lead Alert – the six step guide to painting your home is a guide by the Department of the Environment that contains safety tips and advice.
It is important to read the guide, even if you have hired a professional to deal with your lead paint.
In every community, there are different sources of noise. Read the information below to find out about noise in Merri-bek.
What noise is acceptable?
Moreland is a vibrant and diverse city where people live, work, shop, entertain and relax. As such, some noise is expected and part of day-to-day activities. This is known as ‘reasonable’ noise. Other times, noise can be ‘unreasonable’.
A noise being 'reasonable' or 'unreasonable' depends on many factors, including:
- if it is a weekday or the weekend
- the time of day
- the volume of noise
- how long the noise lasts
- where the noise is coming from
- what type of noise it is
- where the noise can be heard, such as inside a bedroom with a window open.
Sometimes your neighbours might not know how much noise they are making. If your neighbours are making noise that bothers or disturbs you, the best thing to do is to talk to them and work together to find a solution to solve the problem.
EPA Victoria has more information on how to deal with noise and the legal requirements around it, or you can visit their page on prohibited times for residential noise.
In Merri-bek, you may hear noise from a variety of sources. Below, you can find out more about these noise sources. Additionally, EPA Victoria can provide further information about all these categories
Sources of noise
You may hear noise coming from an apartment, house or other property that you find unreasonable depending on the time or day.
You should contact us if:
- the noise is happening all the time, or most of the time.
You should contact Victoria Police if:
- the noise is coming from an event that only happens once, or a few times, like a party
- the noise relates to criminal or anti-social activity.
A common type of noise is noise coming from construction work. There will be times and days where jack-hammers and power tools are not allowed, as they will disturb people. Additionally, noise from getting a construction site ready for the day might disturb people if this creates too much noise early in the morning.
If you are planning on doing some construction work, you should let your neighbours know. If you are being disturbed by noise from construction near you, you can report it to us below using our form for making a noise complaint.
To report noise from fixed plant and equipment at a commercial or industrial premises, contact EPA Victoria.
Under Merri-bek General Local Law 2018, the delivery of items from one business to another business within areas where people live can happen (without a special permit) during the following times:
· Monday to Saturday, 7 am - 10 pm
· Sunday and public holidays, 9 am - 10 pm.
Businesses wanting to deliver items outside these times need to have a permit.
Loud music from entertainment venues can be frustrating, especially late at night. There are noise limit rules for entertainment venues. The policy protects people from being bothered by extreme levels of music noise. However, there is also an understanding that some people in the community like having many options for musical entertainment.
If people make a noise complaint about a venue, the police have the power under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to instruct the venue to lower or stop entertainment noise after midnight and until 8am.
Our halls and venues are used for community and recreation activities, like dance classes and social group activities. They are also hired out for events, performances and parties. Each hall and venue will have set operating hours, and times that loud music must stop. These times need to meet EPA Victoria noise guidelines. You can report noise from a Council hall and venue to us, or if it is a one-off event you can contact Victoria police.
Noise from sporting pavilions or facilities
A sporting club that hires one of our sporting pavilions or facilities is responsible for making sure the noise levels from their event meets the EPA Victoria noise guidelines. Noise that is made louder with music or other electronic assistance is not allowed at our sporting pavilions and facilities during the following times:
- Monday to Thursday before 7 am and after 10 pm
- Friday before 7 am and after 11 pm
- Saturday and public holidays before 9 am and after 11 pm
- Sunday before 9 am and after 10 pm
We also ask that everyone leaves the pavilion or facility by 11pm, so people who live in the area are not disturbed.
Merri-bek General Local Law 2018 states that a security alarm must not be able to be heard beyond the boundary of the house or building 10 minutes after it starts. If you have a security alarm, please make sure that you follow this rule, and that your alarm can not go off again until it has been reset by you or another person.
To report noise from a one-off event, please contact Victoria Police. You can also report this noise to us through our Make a noise complaint form.
If you are having a problem with a noisy animal in your area, please see our noisy animals and barking dogs page.
EPA Victoria have more information on prohibited times for noise relating to when the above noise sources are considered reasonable and unreasonable. This also includes requirements for air conditioning/evaporative cooling units, swimming pools and spas, and other sources of noise.
How to make a noise complaint
If you would like to make a noise complaint, it’s important to read through the information above and follow the links provided. That way you will know which noises are considered unreasonable and can be reported to us. Remember, we only investigate ongoing noise issues. Everything else needs to be reported to Victoria Police.
We encourage you to talk to whoever is making the noise and let them know how it is impacting you. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you can contact us for further advice.
You can contact us directly, or report noise online.
Pest control services and products
We do not provide any pest control services or sell any pest control products. However, here are some things you can do to help control pests:
- Keep your home clean and hygienic.
- Seal off any cracks or small holes in and around the places where pests get into your home
- Make sure there is proper ventilation under your floor.
Bees and wasps
You may encounter bees or wasps on your property. If you are concerned about a bee swarm, you should contact an apiarist. If you spot a wasp nest, never remove it yourself, contact a licenced pest remover. If you are concerned about bees or wasps on Council property, let us know.
Pollution and odours
We want everyone in Merri-bek to enjoy a healthy environment, and to enjoy a quality of life that meets their expectations. Moreland General Local Law 2018 helps make sure this is possible.
To make sure we are following Merri-bek General Local Law, we investigate:
- air, noise, water and land pollution
- odour complaints such as smoke from household chimneys
- overflowing sewage, rubbish or drainage which is a risk to public health, and
- things that are dangerous to health such as unsanitary premises.
Incinerators, fires and open air burning
We have rules on incinerators and open air burning so that we can keep everyone safe and happy in the community.
You can only have an open air fire or incinerator if:
- it's for cooking food or heating
- it's in a safe and appropriate device
- the device is built only for cooking food or heating
- the fire doesn't produce too much pollution that is a nuisance to others.
Open air fires include fire pits, chimneys and chimeneas. You should contact the EPA if you are concerned about smoke in your area.
You can also contact us for more information about open air fires or to report a smoke nuisance issue.
Public pools and spas
Public pool and spa operators have to meet set water quality standards, especially regarding the disinfectant and chemicals they use to clean their pools and spas.
Pool and spa operators are required to make sure water conditions are safe for pool and spa users.
The Victorian Department of Health has developed guidelines on water quality for public pools, swimming pools and spas.
Report a problem with a pool or spa
Pool and spa users can be affected by contaminated pool water, contaminated surfaces, bacteria, or person-to-person contact. This could cause diseases. We will investigate any complaints relating to water quality in public swimming pools and spas.
You should contact us if:
- you believe a public pool or spa in Merri-bek is unhygienic or unsafe
- you think you've gotten sick from a public pool or spa in Merri-bek.
If you think you've gotten sick from a pool and spa, you should speak with your doctor.
Syringe and needle disposal
All sharps, needles and syringes should be disposed of safely. For further information, download the Victorian Government Safe Retrieval and Disposal of Needles and Syringes brochure.
Syringe Disposal in Merri-bek
We have syringe disposal containers available to anyone who needs them. They are free for Merri-bek residents. You can get the containers from any of our customer service centres, and you can return them to the same place once they are full. We also sell the containers to registered businesses or organisations.
We also have free needle and syringe disposal kits for community groups, sports clubs and schools.
Merri Health provides free syringe disposal bins outside their locations in Coburg and Brunswick.
In public, you must always use a syringe disposal unit to throw away syringes. All of our public toilets have a syringe disposal unit. If you see a syringe or needle left in a public area phone the Syringe Disposal Helpline on 1800 552 355 for advice, available 24 hours.
In Australia, tobacco smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease. This is why stopping young people from smoking and making sure they are protected from tobacco smoke in the environment is a priority for the Victorian Government. Visit the Department of Health to find out about tobacco reforms and the Tobacco Act 1987.
Reducing the uptake of smoking by young people and preventing their exposure to the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke are key platforms of the Victorian Government's program to reduce the overall toll of tobacco use in Victoria.
This program included:
- the introduction of plain packaging requirements for tobacco products
- a ban on smoking in a motor vehicle if a person under the age of 18 is present
- advertising restrictions
- tough fines for the sale of cigarettes to minors
- a ban on the sale of tobacco products from temporary outlets, and
- a ban on the display of tobacco products at the point of sale with an exemption for certified specialist tobacconists.
There are rules for retailers around the packaging and sale of tobacco products, including:
- You must not sell tobacco products to anyone under 18. You will get a fine if you do this. We regularly employ people under the age of 18 to try to buy tobacco products from shops in Merri-bek so we can check if they are following the rules
- health warnings on packages must be clearly displayed
- tobacco vending machine locations are tightly regulated
See the Department of Health's tobacco retailer guide for more information on these rules
It is illegal to smoke at these places in Victoria:
- most enclosed workplaces, including restaurants, cafes and shopping centres
- train stations and platforms and bus and tram shelters
- underage events
- outdoor areas of public swimming pools
- within 10 metres of children's playgrounds and skate parks
- patrolled beaches
- enclosed licensed premises including hotels, bars, clubs, pubs and gaming rooms, and
- outdoor dining or drinking areas as per state legislation.
Warehouses and factories
There are many empty warehouses and factories in Merri-bek. These can be used for parties, events and other activities. However, not all warehouses and factories will have the safety features you need to run your event.
Warehouses and factories are located in industrial zones, which affects the use of the buildings. If the building is being used for anything other than its original permitted use, it will contravene the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and Merri-bek’s Planning Scheme provisions.
Anyone wanting to use a warehouse or factory for anything other than its original purpose must first make sure they meet legislative requirements.
You may need one of the following permits:
- building occupancy permit, if you are changing the way the building is used (you may get this from a registered building surveyor)
- change of use permit, if you plan to use the building as a 'place of assembly' (for example, a dance or music venue)
- a planning permit, if building work is needed.
Further requirements may include:
- A liquor licence, if you are planning to serve alcohol (you must have the required building permits in place before getting a liquor licence). You can get a liquor licence from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
- Registering as a food business, if you plan to serve food. See our food businesses page for more information.
- Arranging a meeting with us to discuss your event.
- Meeting EPA noise standard SEPP N2.
If you do not get the right permits, licences and permission for your event or building use, you may get a fine. This may also result in action from VCAT or the Magistrates Court.
You can contact us if you have any questions about any of the above issues.
Food complaints and recalls
Sometimes, members of the community may submit a complaint about the food or food safety practices at a food business. Other times, a type of food may need to be removed from the community. Find out more about these situations below.
We take food safety very seriously and will investigate all complaints about suspected food poisoning at food businesses in Merri-bek.
If you wish to report a suspected food poisoning, you can call us any day of the week on 9240 1111. This phone line is open 24 hours a day.
After you make your report, one of our Environmental Health Officers will investigate.
- If you can, you should keep and refrigerate any remaining suspect food or packaging that you believe is the cause of your food poisoning. This is so we can properly find the reason for the food poisoning.
- If you have symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach cramps, you should see your doctor, who may suggest a faecal test. Tests on a faecal sample can help show your doctor what made you sick and help us with our investigation.
We also investigate food safety complaints about food hygiene, contamination and poor food handling at food businesses in Merri-bek.
When you make a food complaint, we will let you know the outcome and do everything we can to prevent it from happening again.
Common complaints are:
- objects in food that should not be there, for example a bug or a piece of wood, metal or plastic
- food that cannot be eaten because it is not safe, for example, mouldy or rotten food
- food packages or containers that are broken or ripped
- packaged foods without proper labelling, for example, food packages that do not have the best before date, use by dates, nutritional information and country of origin.
- unclean food businesses, for example, dirty benches and surfaces, overflowing and exposed rubbish, rat or mice droppings or cockroaches
- poor or unsafe food handling procedures.
If you would like to make a food safety complaint, contact us and describe the details of the food safety problem, including:
- what you ate, bought or saw
- where you ate or bought the food (include the name and address of the business)
- the date and time that you ate or bought food, or that you saw a problem, and
- any other details to do with your complaint, for example, a description of the person who served you if the complaint relates to food handling.
Your complaint is private and we will keep you informed on the progress of the investigation.
There are some food businesses in Merri-bek not governed by us.
In this case:
- complaints related to meat and poultry processing facilities and seafood businesses, such as butchers, fresh chicken shops and fishmongers, should be directed to PrimeSafe
- complaints related to dairy foods should be directed to Dairy Food Safety Victoria.
The Department of Health can recall a food if it decides that it is not safe for eating. If this happens, the Department will order that the food cannot be eaten, sold or distributed.
A food might be recalled if a report or complaint has been made about a food product by the manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, government or consumers. Or if a food business has done testing and found issues with the food themselves.
Reasons a food may be recalled include:
- the food product is chemically contaminated in some way
- presence of objects or matter that is not supposed to be in the food
- labelling and packaging errors
- allergens that the food company has not mentioned.
The Department of Health lets us know about foods that need to be recalled in Merri-bek. We will contact businesses that use or sell the recalled food to make sure that the food is not used and is removed from sale.
Food businesses involved in a food recall must carefully follow instructions from us and the Department of Health for the removal of food from their shelves. The Department of Health and Food Standards Australia New Zealand have more information about food recalls and food safety.
Our Environmental Health Officers inspect registered food premises to make sure food safety standards are being maintained. This includes:
- food manufacturers
- takeaway outlets
- childcare centres
- food stalls at festivals
- food vehicles
- school canteens
- pubs and clubs.
We have a food sampling program where Environmental Health Officers will submit food from premises in Merri-bek for analysis. The food is analysed to check food safety and to make sure the business is meeting regulations and standards.
Report a concern about a personal care or an accommodation business
Personal care and body art businesses, and prescribed accommodation businesses are considered health related businesses because they must comply with public health acts and regulations.
We encourage you to report concerns to us about health related businesses in Merri-bek. Your report helps us make sure that health related premises are safe and hygienic.
You can report your concern to us if you:
- believe a business is operating in an unhygienic manner or has questionable practices
- think you may have contracted a skin condition or infectious disease from a registered business, or
- see poor standards of accommodation or overcrowding in a rooming or boarding house, motel, or caravan park.
If you wish to report a concern, you should contact us and provide the following details:
- the name and address of the business
- the date and time you visited or viewed the premises
- any other relevant details.
We will investigate your report and keep you informed on the progress. Your report is confidential.