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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 lessons of Seveso
View the documentA model for managing uncertainty
View the documentModelling the Seveso disaster
View the documentModelling the Seveso Directive
View the documentModelling the Karin B incident
View the documentA moral paradox
View the documentA scientific paradox
View the documentIndustrial accidents, industrial society, and recovery

Modelling the Seveso Directive

Our model of uncertainty management is also reflected in the regulations of the Seveso Directive. The main concern here is with communication:

Member States shall ensure that information on safety measures and on the correct behaviour to adopt in the case of an accident is supplied in an appropriate manner, and without their having to request it, to persons liable to be affected by the major accident originating in a notified industrial activity within the meaning of Article 5. The information should be repeated and updated at appropriate intervals. It shall also be made publicly available. Such information shall contain that laid down in Annex VII. (Article 8 of Directive 88/610/EEC, amending Directive 82/501/EEC)

This portion of the Directive reflects concerns about several sorts of uncertainty. First, there is an attempt to institute progressive reduction of scientific uncertainty via updating requirements. Second, the various phrases that call for effective implementation of the public's right to know show clear awareness of the need to confront problems of institutional uncertainty and proprietary uncertainty. Moreover, the very existence of the Directive, particularly Article 8, underscores heightened awareness of legal/moral uncertainty, for the Seveso event showed that simple "accidents," or "acts of God," are not the most important problems affecting the safety of industrial installations and surrounding communities.

When we consider the implementation of the hazard communication requirements of Article 8, we find that the model illuminates practice. First, actual EC regulations seem to assume that societal and institutional uncertainties are not salient or severe. Nor do they deal with the possibility of situational uncertainty (i.e. less than complete competence of available official expertise for prediction, prevention, or control). The contrast between European and American practice is noteworthy. In the United States, provision is often made for the inclusion of alternative expertise via environmental legislation that permits the use of public funds for the incorporation of local citizens' knowledge into the policy discourse on the grounds of due process or fairness.