Comment by: Andrew Mitchell
Focus area: Chemicals
Regulator concerned: Environment Agency,Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Firstly thank you for the opportunity to comment on the COMAH Regulations and their enforcement.
I am a director of a chemical manufacturing and distribution Group with a mixture of high tier, low tier and sub COMAH sites. We find the Regulators, do not differentiate much between the High and low tier sites, but simply do not regulate at all any of the sub COMAH sites.
Generally, most chemical companies fall within COMAH, due to a very small number of products within a much larger portfolio. Very often the Regulators do not take any cognisance of this fact and therefore we have a two tier HSE Enforcement. Surely it would be better for those Regulators to concentrate on the products causing the site to be within COMAH, and then enforce the remaining site, and sub COMAH sites and products in a similar manner.
I have to question why this currently isn’t being or cannot be done, and the only conclusion I can arrive at is that HSE are permitted to charge for their time on COMAH work, but not on sub COMAH sites. The current policy of both the enforcement of and charging for COMAH visits, discriminates against the UK chemical industry, as such a practice isn’t encountered across the EU.
On the matter of best practice, most operators, would not have any issue with designing new, or replacement plant to best practice, but commonly the CA, and especially the Environment Agency expects, operators to apply best practice to existing sites and plant, causing very serious disruption and costs. There should be an agreed policy between the CA and operator, that all new, or replacement plant is built to best practice. Conversely, where the CA requires the site or plant to be upgraded or replaced before its useful life has elapsed, then their expectation should be fully risk based. Otherwise, a long term (maybe up to 20 years) improvement plan should be agreed, between the CA and operator. In agreeing this plan a full account must be taken of the financial standing of the operator, and expected replacement periods for the plant.