OECD Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response

Prefacio del documento publicado por la OCDE:

The chemicals industry produces many useful products without which modern society would not function as it currently does. But the production, storage, transport, use and disposal of chemicals may also involve risks, and can lead to major accidents. The whole of a town can be threatened by an explosion in a chemical plant, the whole of a coast by the shipwreck of a tanker, the whole of a region by leaks from a chemical installation. Bhopal (1984) was the scene of the accident with the most human casualties; the Basel warehouse fire (1986) caused large-scale pollution of the Rhine; and the Baia Mare spill (2000) severely threatened the Danube River. Recently the populations and the towns of Enschede (2000) and Toulouse (2001) were seriously affected by chemical explosions.

At the 1988 OECD Conference on Accidents Involving Hazardous Substances, Ministers initiated an ambitious OECD programme in this field. The programme has developed four Council Acts which have helped to shape the policies concerning major accidents in member countries. Furthermore, the Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response were published in 1992. In the preparation of this document, experts from government, industry, trade unions, environmental interest groups and other international organisations worked closely together. The application of the Guiding Principles is the subject of an OECD Council Recommendation; they have been translated into many languages, and are also used widely in non-member countries.

Over the last ten years, governments and industry have focussed on the implementation of these Guiding Principles. At the same time, the OECD Working Group on Chemical Accidents has worked on improving and updating them based on new experiences and on expanding them by introducing new topics. This was done through an extensive series of OECD workshops with participation from the stakeholders. As a result this second edition of the Guiding Principles now includes new elements addressing additional topics such: as the development of a health infrastructure to deal with chemical accidents; implementation of the principles by small and medium-sized enterprises; chemical safety at transport interfaces, such as port areas; the safety of pipelines; integrated management of health, environment, safety and quality control; guidance for audits and inspections; and application to sabotage and terrorism.

This second edition of the Guiding Principles will help, even more than the original principles, public authorities, industry and communities worldwide to prevent chemical accidents and improve preparedness and response, should an accident occur. I think that this document is an excellent example of how OECD can bring together experts from many sectors of society in order to produce a very practical instrument which will be of value to many in member and non-member countries alike. This document will certainly become an important milestone on the path to improved chemical safety in the world.

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