InterviewChemical disasters that drove stricter legislation

24 March 2010 16:02  [Source: ICIS news]

By Andy Brice

LONDON (ICIS news)--The 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India was the chemical sector’s most significant disaster ever and laid the foundations for legislation critical to the high safety standards seen today, the head of the Major Accident Hazards Bureau (MAHB) at the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Global weekly chemicals magazine ICIS Chemical Business has named the Bhopal disaster - which immediately killed 2,000 people and later, more than 8,000 - among the chemical sector’s 10 most devastating accidents in its health, safety and the environment issue.

Bhopal was by far the worst accident if you consider its severity and the impact it had on the chemical industry,” said Michalis Christou, MAHB head. “Just look at the number of victims - the death toll and the huge number of injuries – as well as awareness to the public.

“It was also perhaps the most damaging accident to the image of the chemical industry. Usually people are worried about pollution and the long term effects of the industry, not the threat to life,” he said.

ICIS Chemical Business highlights some of the most significant accidents over the past few decades, and considers how these have helped to drive legislation and new safety practices in the industry.

Others of note include the Seveso disaster in Italy in 1976 and the destruction of the Grand Paroisse fertilizer plant in France in 2001 – both of which forced the industry to apply more stringent safety procedures.

Christou points out, however, that it was the Bhopal disaster that laid the foundations for the industry’s Responsible Care programme.

It also contributed in the development of the Risk Management Program rule in the US and the Seveso II Directive in Europe. It was the initial reason for including land use planning requirements, which is now an important obligation of the Directive, he added.

The 10 disasters are: Feyzin, France (1966), Flixborough, UK (1974), Seveso, Italy (1976), San Juanico, Mexico (1984), Bhopal, India (1984), Schweizerhalle, Switzerland (1986), Baia Mare, Romania (2000), Enschede, Netherlands (2000), Toulouse, France (2001), Texas City, US (2005).

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By: Andy Brice
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