There is a plethora of legislation relating to both reducing and dealing with the aftermath of dangerous spills.
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 – known as DSEAR – are a set of Regulations concerned with protection against risks from fire, explosion and similar events “arising from dangerous substances used or present in the workplace” (HSE).
These Regulations apply to employers and the self-employed at workplaces where a dangerous substance is present or could be present. As with both COSHH Regulations and COMAH, DSEAR requires you to carry out a risk assessment of any work activities involving dangerous substances and:
- provide measures to eliminate or reduce risks as far as is reasonably practicable;
- provide equipment and procedures to deal with accidents and emergencies;
- provide information and training to employees; and
- classify places where explosive atmospheres may occur into zones and mark the zones where necessary.
Information on emergency procedures should be made available to employees and the emergency services.
If you assess that an accident, incident or emergency could arise, for example a fire, or a significant spillage, because of the quantity of dangerous substances at your workplace, you must arrange:
- suitable warning (including visual and audible alarms) and communication systems;
- escape facilities, if required by the risk assessment;
- emergency procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency;
- equipment and clothing for essential personnel dealing with the incident; and
- practice drills.
COMAH applies to industrial sites where quantities of dangerous substances are kept or used – usually sites that manufacture, process or store dangerous chemicals or explosives, or nuclear sites.
Advises Jan Burgess of CMS Cameron McKenna:
“Companies regulated under COMAH fall into two categories – either the lower or upper tier – depending on the quantity of dangerous substances present at a site. Lower tier duties apply to all operators covered by the Regulations, and involve notification to the HSE and EA (or SEPA) of the presence of any dangerous substance.
“There is also a requirement to prepare a written major accident prevention policy (MAPP) setting out the overall aims and principles of action for controlling major accident hazards.”
If the quantity of a substance held at a particular site is above the threshold laid down in COMAH, the operator producing the substance will fall within the upper tier. Additional duties include an obligation to prepare a safety report, which should include:
- information on the safety management system;
- organisation of the site and its surroundings; and
- likely causes, probability and consequences of a major accident.
Companies falling within the upper tier must also prepare an on-site emergency plan, and provide information to Local Authorities to assist them in the preparation of an off-site plan. Emergency plans must be reviewed and (where necessary) revised at least every three years.