The proposed new Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations would replace the existing 1999 COMAH Regulations from 1 June 2015; the date by which the EU's Seveso III Directive must be implemented into national laws. The new rules take into account recent changes to EU legislation on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances and mixtures, and strengthen a number of components of the existing regime including public information requirements and standards of inspection.
The COMAH Regulations cover industrial facilities which pose a major potential hazard to their workers, neighbouring communities or the environment due to the quantity and nature of the substances that they handle. They apply to sectors including oil and gas refining and storage, water treatment works and the production and storage of explosives and fireworks, as well as potentially hazardous chemicals. The regulatory regime is designed to ensure that risks are properly managed and controlled in a way that is safe, sustainable and provides reassurance to the public.
The HSE's draft would implement all but the land use planning aspects of the Seveso III Directive, as well as certain provisions in relation to heavy fuel oils which have already been incorporated into the existing COMAH Regulations. The biggest changes reflect the move from the current Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging Supply) (CHIP) classification system to the newUN globally harmonised Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regime, from 1st June 2015, when it takes full legal effect.
The new regulations would also require all COMAH sites to make certain information, which must be kept up to date, about their sites and hazards permanently and electronically available to the public, as required by the Seveso III Directive. Other areas of change relate to safety reports, notifications, emergency plans, definition of key terms and broader duties in relation to 'domino' effects, including updated requirements to share information with neighbouring sites.