Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

COMAH

The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations require you to take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and limit the consequences for human health and the environment if you use or store quantities of dangerous substances on your site above certain thresholds.

A major accident could involve a release, fire or explosion from uncontrolled developments involving one or more dangerous substance. This could cause serious danger to human health or the environment, whether immediate or delayed, inside or outside the site.

The COMAH Regulations apply mainly to the chemical and petrochemical industries, fuel storage and distribution, and alcohol production and storage (maturation).  They may also affect businesses that store gas, manufacture and store explosives, or which have large warehouses or distribution facilities storing dangerous substances, eg agrochemicals, flammable liquids and propellants like aerosols.

This guide describes the types of business and the dangerous substances that the COMAH Regulations apply to. It explains the responsibilities of regulated sites, including assessing risks, how to deal with incidents, and how to notify the regulators with details of your site.

The Seveso III Directive is the European legislation that deals with the control of onshore accident hazards involving dangerous substances.  It replaced the Seveso II directive on 1 June 2015. 

The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 implement this directive in Great Britain.  In Northern Ireland the directive is implemented through the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015

 

Additional resources

   

 

Video Case Study: How to Prepare an Emergency Response for Your Business

If your business manufactures, stores or uses any dangerous substances in amounts that exceed certain thresholds, the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations apply to you.

What you must do

Identify the category of your site

There are two thresholds for dangerous substances under COMAH.  These threshold quantities vary for different categories of substances.

If you store or use more than the lower threshold for a dangerous substance your site is classed as a lower tier establishment. If you store or use more than the higher threshold your site is an upper tier establishment.

The COMAH Regulations 2015 change the classification of certain substances and change the threshold values for some dangerous substances. This means that some sites may change their classification, or may become a COMAH regulated establishment for the first time after 1 June 2015.

Check the rules for classifying dangerous substances at your site

Dangerous substances covered by the COMAH Regulations include named substances (eg hydrogen, ammonium nitrate), and those with:

  • health hazards, including acute toxics;
  • physical hazards, including explosives and flammable liquids and gases;
  • environmental hazards, acute and chronic hazards to the aquatic environment; and
  • other that react with water, including those that evolve toxic or flammable gases.

Find a full list of dangerous substances and relevant threshold quantities:

These are separated into Part 1 (generic categories) and Part 2 (named dangerous substances).

Dangerous substances are categorised in accordance with the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulations.  If a substance, including waste, does not already have a standard CLP classification you must provisionally assign it to the most similar category or named substance until you can make a full assessment.

When classifying a chemical, you must consider:

  • ·         what sort of harm the substance might cause – the hazards;
  • ·         how certain it is that the substance could actually have this effect;
  • ·         how serious the effect might be; and
  • ·         the concentration of the substance.

Classification of a mixture is generally based on what is known of the constituent substances or similar products.

HSE: Classification of chemicals and mixtures

ECHA: CLP

HSENI: CHIP replaced by CLP

You must check your responsibility if you store more than one type of dangerous substance. Even if you don't exceed the threshold amount for any of the dangerous substances under COMAH alone, when all the substances you store or use are added together you may need to comply.

Further information

HSE: Guide to New Entrants

HSE: What to expect from the Competent Authority

HSE: Guidance on the assistance available to new entrants to COMAH

Who regulates COMAH establishments?

COMAH is regulated by a joint competent authority (CA), comprising:

  • in Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
  • in Scotland, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

You will have to pay for most of the work the CA does in connection with your site, for example:

  • assessment of safety reports
  • on-site inspection of how major hazard risks are managed, including preparation and follow up
  • some aspects of investigation of major accidents.

If you are unsure whether COMAH applies to you:

  • in Northern Ireland, contact the HSENI or the NIEA
  • in Scotland, contact the HSE or SEPA.

Comply with planning regulations for dangerous substances

If the COMAH Regulations apply to you, you may also be regulated under planning legislation and need a hazardous substances consent from your local council planning office or your local Planning Authority in Scotland.

Scottish Government: Local planning authorities contact details

Planning Northern Ireland: Local planning offices

Further information

Contact your environmental regulator

HSENI: COMAH Guidance for Northern Ireland

HSENI: Planning control for hazardous substances

HSE: COMAH Guidance for Scotland

HSE: Hazardous substances consent

If you operate a site covered by the Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) Regulations, you must:

If there are any significant changes to the information you provided in your notification you must tell the HSENI or HSE immediately. You must also tell them if your site closes, or if any part of the site closes where dangerous substances are handled, produced, used or stored.

All COMAH sites must send a new notification to the competent authority by 1 June 2016.

Further information

Contact your environmental regulator

HSE: COMAH

HSENI: COMAH Guidance for Northern Ireland

HSENI: Guidance on preparing safety reports

HSE: COMAH - Safety reports

This page provides links to key pieces of environmental legislation relating to Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH). The websites hosting the legislation may list amendments separately.

If you are setting up an environmental management system (EMS) for your business, you can use this list to start compiling your legislation register. Your legal adviser or environmental consultant will be able to tell you if other environmental legislation applies to your specific business.

Environmental management systems and environmental reports

Northern Ireland

European Community Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP Regulation) 1272/2008.(PDF, 6.6MB) Requires manufacturers, importers and users to follow United Nations criteria for classifying, labelling and packaging hazardous substances and mixtures.

Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015/325

These regulations require businesses to take steps to control the major accident hazards involving dangerous substances. They apply to establishments where dangerous substances are present in quantities at or above the threshold levels set out in Schedule 1 of the regulations

Planning (Control of Major-Accident Hazards) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/399. Increases the range of dangerous substances for which consent must be obtained for storage or processing and puts tighter controls on the amounts allowed before consent must be obtained.

Planning (Hazardous Substances) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2010/329. Corrects an error which was introduced by the Planning (Control of Major Accident Hazards) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/399. Provides transitional provisions for operators affected.

Scotland

European Community Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP Regulation) 1272/2008. (PDF, 6.6MB)Requires manufacturers, importers and users to follow United Nations criteria for classifying, labelling and packaging hazardous substances and mixtures.

The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015

These regulations require businesses to take steps to control the major accident hazards involving dangerous substances. They apply to establishments where dangerous substances are present in quantities at or above the threshold levels set out in Schedule 1 of the regulations

Planning (Control of Major Accident Hazards) (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2000/179. Sets out measures to control major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

Planning (Control of Major Accident Hazards) (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2009/378. Increases the range of dangerous substances that you need consent for to store or process, the definition of these substances and the amounts allowed before consent must be obtained.

The Town and Country Planning (Hazardous Substances) (Scotland) Regulations 2015

These Regulations consolidate the Town and Country Planning (Hazardous Substances) (Scotland) Regulations 1993 and subsequent amendments to those Regulations and make further amendments. They also implement the land-use planning aspects of the Seveso lll Directive  on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

Further information

Environmental legislation on NetRegs

Contact your environmental regulator

HSENI: COMAH Guidance for Northern Ireland

HSE: COMAH Guidance for Scotland

Chemical storage

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