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Directive aims to prevent chemical disasters

On 3 February 1999 the obligations of European Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards - the "Seveso II Directive" - became mandatory for industry and public bodies of Member States of the European Community.

This replaces the original Seveso Direc...
On 3 February 1999 the obligations of European Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards - the "Seveso II Directive" - became mandatory for industry and public bodies of Member States of the European Community.

This replaces the original Seveso Directive and includes revisions and extensions to its scope and requirements relating to safety-management systems, emergency planning and land-use planning, as well as a reinforcement of the provisions for inspections to be carried out by Member States.

The Seveso II Directive is aimed at the prevention of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances and the limitation of the consequences of such accidents (both for man and the environment), should they occur.

The Directive covers both industrial activities and the storage of chemicals and, in practice, provides for three levels of controls:

- A company which holds a quantity of dangerous substances lower than the threshold levels given in the Directive is not covered by the legislation. However, such a company will be proportionally controlled by general provisions on health, safety and the environment provided by other legislation which is not specific to major accident hazards;
- A company which holds a larger quantity of dangerous substances, above the lower threshold contained in the Directive, will be covered by the lower tier requirements;
- A company which holds even larger quantities of dangerous substances (or, 'upper tier establishments'), above the upper threshold contained in the Directive, will be covered by all the requirements contained within the Directive.

Some areas are however, excluded from the Directive. These include nuclear safety, the transport of dangerous substances, intermediate temporary storage outside establishments, and the transport of dangerous substances by pipelines.

All operators of establishments coming under the scope of the Directive need to send notification to the competent authority and must establish a major accident prevention policy. In addition, operators of upper tier establishments need to establish a safety report, a safety-management system and an emergency plan.

The Seveso II Directive also gives more rights to the public in terms of consultation and access to information.

A forum of the Committee of Competent Authorities (CCA) will meet to ensure that the Directive is implemented with coherence and consistently applied. The CCA will work to enable cooperation between the competent authorities of the Member States and the European Commission.

Guidance documents are available from the Major Accidents Hazards Bureau to assist Member States with their interpretations of certain provisions of the Seveso II Directive. While these documents have no legal status, the Commission underlines that they do provide valuable guidance to industrial operators and enforcement authorities, taking into account that they represent the unanimous view of all Member States.
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