Comment by: Paul Machin
Focus area: Chemicals
Regulator concerned: Environment Agency
Enforcement of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH)
COMAH was borne out of the Seveso incident with the intention of reducing to a minimum the likelihood of any similar occurrence in the future. The basic principle is to reduce the possibility of the release of any dangerous substance that could have an adverse effect both on land and the aquatic systems.
To determine whether any intentional or unintentional release would have an adverse impact it is necessary to:
a. Ascertain the hazardous nature of the chemical or chemicals released and
b. The quantity of the hazardous substances that were released.
It is reasonable to assess the impact of such a release by determining:
a. The control measures that are in place
b. The rheological properties of any released material and
c. The dilution effects that can take place during the formulatory process of the product that could be released.
Currently the judgement as to whether an industrial site is or is not judged to be subject to the rigours of COMAH does not adequately take into consideration a risk assessment as to the probability of an adverse incident.
The PICON trade association is aware of some members where such an assessment would reduce the risk so as to exclude them from the COMAH requirements and the consequential costs. To justify the review of the mechanism for deciding whether a site is assessed as not falling under the requirements of COMAH, the following information is given as an example of a member who is a designated COMAH site.
1. Do not use sufficient environmentally individual damaging chemicals to qualify as a COMAH site,
2. Only when these substances are blended into the final product they are present in sufficient quantity to require an EU environmental hazard label and therefore fall within the current classification as a COMAH site,
3. Qualification for the COMAH site is based on the fact that these blended products are held in a separate warehouse on the site in sufficient quantities,
4. The percentage of environmentally damaging chemicals in any product is less than 5% of the product that is stored,
5. The blended products are packaged in 200, 25, 5 or 1 litre containers. Every container has to be packaged in approved UN containers for the purpose of shipping and storage. These containers have to pass a drop test with no leakage allowed,
6. The rheological properties are such that even if an open container was overturned without a lid there would be very limited spread of the contents.
Picon would like to propose that a risk assessment process is used to ascertain whether a site should be COMAH registered rather than a hazard based assessment.