Dáil Éireann - Volume 355 - 12 February, 1985

Written Answers. - Dangerous Substances Legislation.

660. Mr. N. Andrews asked the Minister for Labour if, in view of the horrific consequences of the poison gas disaster in Bhopal, he will introduce legislation for all undertakings that work with dangerous substances or through whose activities such substances could be released to ensure (1) that adequate studies of security procedures and possible cases of malfunctioning will be prepared, (2) that security regulations will be changed so that dangerous substances will be handled only where special passive protection features against leakage have been installed, (3) that the need to handle dangerous substances will be verified and if it cannot be demonstrated he will ensure that a ban is placed on processing and production, and (4) that emergency protection plans for residents living in the vicinity of the plant will be published and public exercises will be held.

[2233] Minister for Labour (Mr. Quinn): Draft Regulations to give effect to the EC Council Directive 82/501 EEC of 24 June 1982 on the major-accident hazards of certain industrial activities (SEVESO Directive) are at present being finalised.

This directive is concerned with the prevention of major accidents which might result from certain industrial activities and with the limitation of their consequences for man and the environment.

The objectives of the Regulations are twofold. The first objective is to reduce the probability of major accidents occurring by the application of loss prevention techniques. The second objective is to prevent a major accident — should one occur — from turning into a disaster, by limiting the consequences. Under the proposed Regulations manufacturers will have a number of obligations including that of preparing an adequate on-site emergency plan detailing how major accidents will be dealt with on the site of particular industrial activities and the provision of information for the public on the safety measures and the correct behaviour which should be adopted in the event of a major accident. The Regulations will also provide that there will be an onus on local competent authorities, consisting of local authorities, health-boards and the Garda to prepare and maintain an off-site emergency plan detailing how emergencies relating to a possible major accident on the site of particular industrial activities are to be dealt with.

The Regulations when implemented will cover, in particular, industrial activities which are involved in processing dangerous substances in quantities such as that of methyl isocyanate which was involved in the Bhopal disaster. Incidentally, inquiries made by my Department failed to produce any evidence that methyl isocyanate was being used in this country.

The Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work — the Barrington Commission — have in their recommendations, paid particular attention to (i) the arrangements for the safety, health and welfare of people in [2234] the course of their employment and (ii) the provision of adequate safeguards for the public from hazards arising from work activities wherever this is a significant consideration. My Department is currently drafting proposals, as a matter of priority, for legislative changes based on the Commission's recommendations.