To prevent chemical accidents, it is necessary to identify and understand the hazards associated with the chemical substances and their processes as well as the potential scenarios which may lead to an accident – indicates the recent UNEP Guidance Document “A Flexible Framework for Addressing Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness”. These scenarios include the effects of extreme weather conditions or seismic events - earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption.
The impact of extreme weather conditions or seismic events – the document says - on chemical installations can damage the plant construction or lead to a break down in the supply of energy or utilities. This may in turn lead to chemical accidents. Proposed prevention mechanisms include careful assessment of the siting of hazardous installations which should take account of local natural features (rivers which may flood, steep slopes prone to avalanche or mud slide, coastal plains exposed to tsunami risk). The construction of installations should also take account of the possible natural hazards and the expected weather conditions in the geographical region, including extremes. Provisions should be made for shutting down the installation in an emergency due to extreme natural conditions.
This Guidance document was developed by a group of international experts, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP-DTIE), as part of its work pursuant to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) adopted in February 2006.The aim of SAICM is to “achieve by 2020, the use and production of chemicals in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.” One of the identified work areas of SAICM is “formulation of prevention and response measures to mitigate the environmental and health impacts of emergencies involving chemicals.”
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