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Act now over fuel re-categorisation

Published:  01 April, 2014

Thousands of offshore installation owners and operators are being urged by a health and safety legislation expert to act now over forthcoming changes to the way fuel will be categorised. ODEE reports.

Thousands of offshore installation owners and operators are being urged by a health and safety legislation expert to act now over forthcoming changes to the way fuel will be categorised.

New legislation for the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances (Seveso III) will come into force from the start of June 2015. But a proposed HSE amendment to this could have consequences which organisations need to be aware of and prepare for now, according to specialists in health and safety legislation Cedrec.

The decision to implement changes has been driven by the EU which wants to see improvements in the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

When Seveso III comes next year it will see a new system of dangerous substances classification come into force to ‘strengthen the provisions relating to public access to safety information, participation in decision-making and access to justice, and improve the way information is collected, managed, made available and shared’.

This should tighten up a number of areas that have hitherto been somewhat lax or open to interpretation, improving public access to information and standards of inspection and will continue to ensure a high level of protection to human health and the environment from major accidents involving dangerous substances.

The Seveso III Directive will be implemented through new Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations and planning legislation which comes under the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Whole swathes of the offshore sector will be affected by the incoming Directive including platform and rig owners and operators as well as those in the supply chain.

However while there has been a significant amount of ‘noise’ concerning the Directive itself, auditor and director at Cedrec, Gareth Billinghurst, is concerned that many of those responsible for health and safety within their organisations are under-prepared for, or simply unaware of a proposed alteration to re-categorise heavy fuels (HFO) as ‘petroleum products’ from 20 February 2014 – and the implications this will bring.

The move proposed by the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will have the effect of changing HFO categorisation from its current status of ‘dangerous for the environment’ to ‘petroleum products’, thereby increasing significantly the qualifying threshold inventories before the requirements of COMAH, and Planning Hazardous Substances, become applicable.

In the UK, it is still unclear what this will actually mean for the next generation of COMAH and an industry-wide consultation has been completed to find out whether the amendment explains what businesses need to do and the costs and benefits of the proposed changes.

According to Gareth Billinghurst, an additional concern with such re-categorisation is that many organisations could come within the requirements of the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH): “REACH is now well underway, as substances are evaluated and tested. The result of this could mean the chemicals you use and produce are re-classified as a higher risk or even restricted. You could then fall into a different tier under COMAH (lower or higher) and have different requirements.

“There is still uncertainty surrounding the new Directive, with the results of the consultation over the HSE’s proposed amendments not due until the summer.”

He added: “But what is clear is that change is coming and attempting to navigate through any change will be difficult even for those with responsibility for compliance, facilities management and health and safety.

“Organisations need to have COMAH on their long distance radar and start to prepare themselves now for the new legislative landscape.”

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