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The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999 are implemented by a Competent Authority (CA) comprising the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) working jointly with the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
This report covers the period April 2003 to March 2004 and provides details of 1 COMAH major accident in England, Wales and Scotland notified to the European Commission (EC). The report describes the causes of the accident, the consequences and the enforcement action taken by the CA. In publishing it, the CA is aiming to show how the COMAH regime is working in an open and transparent way. The report will also enable lessons to be learned so that accidents can be prevented in the future.
This is the fifth report to be published in the series following reports covering 1999/00 onwards.
The COMAH Regulations 1999 apply to approximately 1100 establishments that have the potential to cause major accidents because they use, or store, significant quantities of dangerous substances, such as oil products, natural gas, chemicals and explosives. The general duty of the regulations is that 'Every operator shall take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and limit their consequences to persons and the environment'. The regulations are unusual in that they are implemented by a Competent Authority (CA) comprising the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) working jointly with the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). This arrangement reflects the requirements to ensure the protection of both persons and the environment.
The CA is required to notify certain major accidents to the EC. The criteria include; the release of a specified quantity of a dangerous substance, specified harm to persons (e.g. 1 death), specified harm to the environment (e.g. significant damage to more than 10km of river) or in some circumstances a 'near miss' of particular technical interest. This report describes the 1 EC Reportable Accident (ECRA) that occurred during the period 2003/04, their consequences and enforcement action taken by the CA. A summary is provided in tabular form at Appendix A.
The key points to note of the accident is:
The principal conclusions are:
In April 1999 the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations came into force in England, Wales and Scotland, replacing the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards (CIMAH) Regulations that had been in place since 1984.
The COMAH regulations require the CA to notify the EC of certain major accidents. This is a continuation of the CIMAH requirements and there have typically been an average of 4 such accidents in the UK each year. The EC uses the data to inform its decisions on future changes to legislation regarding major accident hazards. The data is also made publicly available, including on the Internet, so that it can be used to learn lessons from the past and help to prevent accidents in the future.
This report provides details of the 1 COMAH major accident notified to the EC between April 2003 and March 2004. It is the fifth report to be published in the series following the reports covering 1999/00 onwards.
The first European Council directive concerned with controlling major accident hazards involving dangerous substances was adopted in 1982. Known as the 'Seveso' directive, (82/501/EEC), it was incorporated into UK law by means of the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1984 (CIMAH). In 1996, the 'Seveso II' directive (96/82/EC) superseded the earlier Directive. The principal changes were a broadening of scope to include a wider range of dangerous substances and enhanced requirements to protect the environment. Most of the requirements of 'Seveso II' have been implemented by the COMAH Regulations 1999.
The general duty of the COMAH regulations is that 'Every operator shall take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and limit their consequences to persons and the environment'. The regulations apply to over 1100 establishments in England, Wales and Scotland. Approximately 730 are 'lower tier' sites, where operators must prepare a Major Accident Prevention Policy. The remaining 370 sites with larger inventories of dangerous substances are classified as 'top tier' and are subject to additional requirements. These include submitting a safety report to the CA to demonstrate how they are preventing or limiting the consequences of a major accident and providing information to local authorities to enable off-site emergency plans to be developed.
COMAH Regulation 21 requires the CA to notify the EC of any major accident meeting certain criteria. The criteria and the information to be provided are given in Schedule 7 of the regulations. Part 1 is reproduced as Appendix B of this report.
The notifications are sent to the Major Accident Hazards Bureau of the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), based at Ispra in Italy. The Bureau gives support to Environment Directorate General (DG ENV) of the European Commission. There are 2 forms provided for the purpose; the short form is for immediate notification of an accident and provides basic information, the long form is to be sent later when the investigations have been completed and the causes of the accident have been established.
The data is entered onto the Major Accident Reporting System (MARS). The names and addresses of the operators are removed before the data is made available to the public on the JRC website. Data searches and analyses can also be carried out on-line. For further information contact Fesil Mushtaq European Commission, Joint Research Centre, TP 670, I-21020 Ispra (Va), Italy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax: +39 0332 78 9007.
1 major accident were reported to the EC because it satisfies one of the criteria given in paragraph 1 of Schedule 7 of the COMAH Regulations.
The 1 accident is listed below. Details are provided against this accident on the causes, consequences, the emergency response and the action taken by the CA.
This is a COMAH Top Tier site involved in oil production. On 29 May 2003 approximately 20 tonnes of Isobutane (iC4) and between 60 and 100 kilograms of Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) were released from a corroded 6" nominal bore carbon steel pipeline on a Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation Plant.
The pipeline was part of a thermal relief line from a pressure relief valve (PRV), which discharged back to the process. The process conditions were 10bar, 72 degrees centigrade iC4 with 0.3% HF and no free water. The pipeline ran from the PRV down to a horizontal pipetrack approximately 10m in the air. The site of the failure was close to the tie point back to the process. The release created a flammable gas cloud that did not ignite.
The failure was in the Normally No Flow (NNF) line and was due to internal corrosion of the pipeline and when subsequently inspected was found to have significant internal scale, which in some places completely blocked the line.
The company following its own emergency procedures dealt with the incident. The County Fire Brigade attended but were not required and the plant was shut down and depressurised. The HF transferred to the emergency dump vessel and the release continued for some 84 minutes from the time the gas alarms sounded as the pressure of the plant was reduced
There were no injuries sustained at the time of the release or environmental damage reported
This was an ECRA as it resulted in the loss of more than 5% of the qualifying quantity of dangerous substances as laid out in Part 1 of Schedule 7 of the COMAH Regulations.
Other issues/ factors relevant to the incident:
However, there remains concern at the occurrence of any major incident and it is too soon to determine if this reduction is the start of a downward trend. The CA will continue to use the COMAH Regulations as the vehicle for improving corporate governance of major hazard sites.
HSE is also working in partnership with the main chemical industry trade associations through the Chemical and Downstream Oil Industry Forum (CDOIF - a tripartite forum of HSE, industry and workforce representatives to discuss and set health and safety priorities and targets) to prevent major accidents and reduce the number of ECRAs by 20% by 2004, as part of the UK Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy.
This is the fifth annual report that has been published, giving details of EC reportable accidents in England, Wales and Scotland. The CA believes it will provide an insight into the safety performance of industry and its own performance as a regulator. It will also enable lessons to be learned from past accidents, thus helping to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future.
The CA would welcome feedback on any aspect of this report. Any comments or requests for further information should be addressed to the following contacts:
Gerry Adderley, Health and Safety Executive, Hazardous
Chemical Industry Major Hazards Team, 4N.2 Redgrave Court, Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside L20 7HS (email: email@example.com ) or;
Alex Radway, COMAH Policy Advisor, Environment Agency,
Richard Fairclough House, PO Box12, Knutsford Road, Latchford, Warrington, Cheshire WA4 1HG (email: firstname.lastname@example.org ), or;
Rob Ebbins, Policy Advisor, SEPA Edinburgh Office,
Heriot-Watt Research Park, Avenue North, Riccarton, Edinburgh EH14 4AP
(email: email@example.com ).
The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999, S.I. 1999 No.743,
ISBN 0 11 082192 0, The Stationery Office £5.80.
The Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1984, SI 1984 No. 1902, ISBN 0 11 047902 5, The Stationary Office.
|Operator, Location & Date||Accident Description & Dangerous Substances||Accident Consequences & ECRA Notification Criteria||Causes and Actions Taken|
Shell Oil Uk Oil Products Ltd,
Release of approximately 20 tonnes of Isobutane and between 60 and 160 kgs of Hydrogen Fluoride.
No injuries sustained and no damage to
The release resulted from internal
corrosion of a 6" nominal bore carbon steel pipeline on
a Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation Plant.
Regulation 21(1) and (2)
CRITERIA FOR NOTIFICATION OF A MAJOR ACCIDENT TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND INFORMATION TO BE NOTIFIED
(This part sets out the provisions of Annex VI to the Directive)
The criteria referred to in regulation 21(1) are as follows-