Control of Major Hazards Regulations 2015 and Seveso III directive

A good starting point for a discussion on chemical incidents is an overview of the legislation surrounding chemical use. Below are the main regulatory bodies.


Control of Major Hazards Regulations 1999

Industrial chemical use in the UK is regulated by the Control of Major Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH), in which is enshrined the Seveso III directive from the EU [2].

Certain industries are reportable to COMAH, especially those using oil, gas, chemicals or explosives.
Under COMAH, each company has a duty to have a major accident plan and to be involved in surveillance.

Seveso III Directive

The aim of the Seveso III Directive is to prevent major accidents which involve dangerous substances.

Where accidents have occurred, the Directive’s objective is to limit the consequences for humankind and the environment.

It plays an important role in regulating the response to major industrial accidents and is named after an accident in Seveso, Italy, when poisonous and carcinogenic dioxin vapour (a by product of pesticide and herbicide manufacturing) was released from a reactor at a chemical plant.


The European Major Accident Hazards Bureau

The European Major Accident Hazards Bureau (MAHB) was set up to assist in the successful implementation of European Union policy on the control of major hazards and the prevention and mitigation of major accidents.

It has a database of all reportable incidents and carries out scientific and technical activities related to the day to day implementation of relevant European Community legislation.


The International Programme on Chemical Safety

The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) is a worldwide surveillance and information body run by the World Health Organisation (WHO), implementing activities related to chemical safety.

Its main role is to establish the scientific basis for the safe use of chemicals and to strengthen national capabilities and capacities for chemical safety.


HAZOPS is a risk assessment system that balances hazard and gain to a level known as “As Low as Reasonably Practicable” (ALARP). This is an acceptable standard in law.

Risk assessment for industries takes into account:

  • Centres of population
  • Infrastructure
  • Geographical factors such as watercourses and prevailing wind in the event of a plume

It is said to be the most widely used method of hazard analysis in the process industries, notably the chemical, petrochemical and nuclear industries.

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