More slippage on COMAH

The Health and Safety Executive fell well short of its targets for assessing safety reports and inspecting the country's most hazardous industrial installations last year, according to the annual report of the Health and Safety Commission.

Safety reports were required for some 360 top-tier installations regulated under the 1999 COMAH regulations on major accident hazards.

In 1999, the Health and Safety Executive revealed that it had rejected 40% of initial safety reports which had "major gaps" in coverage (ENDS Report 321, pp 16-17 ).

The problem has not gone away. The HSE's target was to assess reports for 173 top-tier sites during 2002/03. But only 86 assessments were completed in full and 22 in part.

The HSC's report comments: "The high rate of early screening failures has led to a high number of safety reports being returned to industry. The low resubmission rate has affected the assessment progress." But it also appears that the HSE may be tolerating lengthy delays in completion of safety reports beyond the deadlines laid down by EU legislation.

The report goes on attribute other shortfalls against targets to the problems with safety reports:

  • The HSE had planned to conduct 800 inspections during 2002/03 to verify claims made in safety reports against conditions on site.

    In practice, only a "limited number" of verification inspections were carried out. Some 670 "visits" were made to top-tier sites, and verification of safety report information "will have formed part of some of these inspections," the report says. Again, the HSE may not be complying with EU legislative requirements for inspections of COMAH establishments.

  • Some 450 hazardous installations are due to be inspected over five years to check their compliance with chemical industry guidelines on safe design and location of occupied buildings on site. The target for 2002/03 was 100 inspections - but by the end of the year, three years into the programme, just 62 sites had been assessed.

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