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close this bookThe Long Road to Recovery: Community Responses to Industrial Disasters (UNU, 1996, 307 p.)
close this folder4 Seveso: A paradoxical classic disaster
close this folderThe European Community's institutional response to Seveso
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Directive and its annexes
View the documentOther institutional effects of the Seveso Directive

The Directive and its annexes

The Seveso Directive is addressed to EC Member States, and holds them responsible for ensuring that the relevant national institutions accomplish what is required for adequate risk management. The entire Directive is also shaped by a concern for prevention, even those parts that relate to post-accident activities. The first article defines relevant terms such as "industrial activity, manufacturer, major accident, and dangerous substances." It also makes reference to four annexes that identify types of production, operations, and storage activities that are subject to regulation, and dangers that are anticipated.

Articles 3 and 4 require Member States to ensure that manufacturers identify existing major accident hazards and adopt all appropriate safety measures, including information, training, and equipment for workers. They must also provide competent authorities with a notification containing detailed and updated information on safety precautions and other matters (Article 5). Moreover, Member States must set up competent authorities that will take responsibility for receiving such a notification, examining the information provided, organizing inspections or other measures of control, and ensuring that off-site emergency plans are prepared (Article 7). Furthermore, Member States are held responsible for assuring that "persons liable to be affected by a major accident... are informed in an appropriate manner of the safety measures and of the correct behaviour to adopt in the event of an accident" (Article 8).

Article 8 is a very innovative feature in safety legislation. For the first time in Europe, the safety of people outside hazardous installations is taken into account; previously, only workers might have the right to be informed. The public's right to know was recognized on both pragmatic and ethical grounds. Not surprisingly, this article met with strong resistance and was subject to long delays in implementation (Wynne 1987; De Marchi 1991a, 1991b). Despite these initial difficulties, the Directive proved to be a watershed event. Matters that had previously been considered suitable "for experts alone" were now opened to inspection by - and input from - the general public.

Article 10 requires that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the manufacturer immediately provides full and detailed information about an accident to the competent authorities; they must in turn ensure that all necessary measures are taken and that full analysis of the accident is accomplished whenever possible. It is a specific obligation of Member States, to report any accident to the EC Commission (Article 11). The Commission is in charge of setting up a register containing a summary of major accidents that occur within the EC, including an analysis of causes, experience gained, and measures taken to enable Member States to use this information for prevention purposes (Article 12). Annex VI to the Directive lists the items of information that the Member States must report to the Commission in the event of a major accident.

The Directive includes provisions for ensuring effective implementation and for updating in light of technological change. Article 15 provides for the creation of a committee composed of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission. The Member States and the Commission are expected to exchange information about the experiences acquired regarding the prevention of major accidents and the limitation of their consequences. Such information covers the operation of measures stipulated in the Directive (Article 18). Moreover, the Commission is required to make proposals for revising the technical annexes as new technologies are adopted.

Procedures for updating and revision include regular meetings of the Committee of Competent Authorities. Such meetings have produced two amendments to the original Directive that grew out of experience with major industrial disasters in Bhopal, Mexico City, and Basle during the early 1980s. The first amendment, Directive 87/216/EEC, adopted by the Council on 19 March 1987, modifies Annexes I, II, and III by lowering the threshold quantities of certain substances and including additional industrial activities in the category that requires notification under Article 5.

During the revision process, between 1979 and 1987, there was a continuous exchange of correspondence between the Special Bureau for Seveso (Ufficio Speciale), which had been set up by the Lombardy Region in June 1977 (see Chronology), and various institutions of the EC (Regione Lombardia 1992). In 1984, a report was prepared by the Ufficio Speciale for a meeting of a committee of the European Parliament which was held in Seveso (Meazza 1992, personal communication). The second amendment, Directive 88/610/EEC issued by the Council on 24 November 1988, further revised Annex II to include more types of storage activities. It also substantially revised Article 8, stating that information shall be made publicly available as well as actively provided in an appropriate manner. Such information shall be periodically repeated and updated as necessary. A new annex, Annex VII, was added, which specifies the information that shall be provided to the public.6

The official deadline for compliance of Member States with Directive 88/610/EEC was 1 June 1990. Meetings of the Competent Authorities have continued after the adoption of the second amendment, and further revision of the Seveso Directive is being discussed.