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Chemical Accidents (Seveso II) – Prevention, Preparedness and Response

fireThe “Seveso” accident happened in 1976 at a chemical plant in Seveso, Italy, manufacturing pesticides and herbicides.  A dense vapour cloud containing tetrachlorodibenzoparadioxin (TCDD) was released from a reactor, used for the production of trichlorofenol.  Commonly known as dioxin, this was a poisonous and carcinogenic by-product of an uncontrolled exothermic reaction.  Although no immediate fatalities were reported, kilogramme quantities of the substance lethal to man even in microgramme doses were widely dispersed which resulted in an immediate contamination of some ten square miles of land and vegetation.  More than 600 people had to be evacuated from their homes and as many as 2000 were treated for dioxin poisoning.


What happened next?

In 1982, Council Directive 82/501/EEC – so-called Seveso Directive – was adopted. In the light of severe accidents at the Union Carbide factory at Bhopal, India in 1984 where a leak of methyl isocyanate caused more than 2500 deaths and at the Sandoz warehouse in Basel, Switzerland in 1986 where fire-fighting water contaminated with mercury, organophosphate pesticides and other chemicals caused massive pollution of the Rhine and the death of half a million fish, the Seveso Directive was amended twice and ultimately was updated in 1996 when the  so-called Seveso II Directive – was adopted.  Member States had up to two years to bring into force the national laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with the Directive. From 3 February 1999, the obligations of the Directive have become mandatory for industry as well as the public authorities of the Member States responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Directive.

To comply with the requirements of Seveso II the operator of a site containing dangerous substances must implement a safety management system which includes as a minimum:

  • organisation and personnel, i.e. the roles and responsibilities of personnel involved in the management of major hazards at all levels in the organisation. The identification of training needs of such personnel and the provision of the training so identified. The involvement of employees and subcontracted personnel working in the establishment
  • identification and evaluation of major hazards, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures for systematically identifying major hazards arising from normal and abnormal operation and the assessment of their likelihood and severity
  • operational control, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures and instructions for safe operation, including maintenance, of plant, processes, equipment and temporary stoppages management of change, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures for planning modifications to, or the design of new installations, processes or storage facilities
  • planning for emergencies, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures to identify foreseeable emergencies by systematic analysis and to prepare, test and review emergency plans to respond to such emergencies and to provide specific training to the staff concerned. The training to be given to all staff including relevant sub-contracted staff
  • monitoring performance, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures for the ongoing assessment of compliance with the objectives set by the operator’s major accident prevention policy and safety management system, and the mechanisms for investigation and taking corrective action in case of non-compliance. The procedures should cover the operator’s system for reporting major accidents of near misses, particularly those involving failure of protective measures, and their investigation and follow-up on the basis of lessons learnt
  • audit and review, i.e. adoption and implementation of procedures for periodic systematic assessment of the major-accident prevention policy and the effectiveness and suitability of the safety management system; the documented review of performance of the policy and safety management system and its updating by senior management.

Does Seveso II apply to your facility? – Call Jordan Business Systems and make sure you fulfil your legal obligations.