Many high profile major accidents over the last quarter century have prompted the introduction of legislation. The events at Bhopal, Pemex, Toulouse, Nantes, Flixborough, Seveso and Staten Island all demonstrate the risk of multiple fatalities and the risk of serious environmental damage from manufacturing and storage installations. Legislation now addresses these hazards and has two objectives:
The EC COMAH Directive 96/82/EC is also known as the Seveso 2 directive.
COMAH is the acronym of Control Of Major-Accident Hazards. The Directive was implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Control of Major Accident Hazards Involving Dangerous Substances) Regulations, 2000.
The Directive defines major-accident hazard sites as those that store or could generate quantities of dangerous substances in excess of specified thresholds. Dangerous Substances are classified as:
Threshold quantities are specified for named substances, categories of substances and groups of categories. Sites are classified as Lower Tier or Top Tier depending on whether the lower or upper threshold is exceeded. The main difference between Top Tier and Lower Tier sites is the requirement for Top Tier sites to notify the public within an agreed area, prepare a Safety Report and liase with the local competent authorities in preparation of an External Emergency Plan.
The Health and Safety Authority notifies the local competent authorities to prepare external emergency plans for Top Tier sites in their region. The Cork City Council Major Emergency Plan contains details on 3 no. Top Tier sites.