Last week the Dutch Safety Board [Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid] published its report "BRZO companies: Lessons learned from Odfjell".
Companies that fall within the scope of the Dutch Major Accidents (Risks) Decree (‘BRZO’) handle hazardous substances and must therefore meet very strict safety requirements. The Safety Board wanted to know what the impact had been of its investigation into Odfjell and its related recommendations. That has now been investigated. In its report published yesterday, the Safety Board writes that there are still flaws in the safety of BRZO companies, the monitoring system, and the behaviour of other parties, such as clients and customers.
Although clients and customers have become more aware of the fact that safety issues at BRZO companies may well rub off on their reputation and that of the industry as a whole, they are still being cautious. Their actions are aimed at protecting their own interests rather than taking responsibility for limiting the safety risks at these businesses as effectively as possible. According to the Safety Board, clients and customers should insist that companies comply fully with the rules. Moreover, BRZO companies should take part in improvement programmes more, and share information and best practices. There are still too many businesses that are not actively taking part, or refuse to share information for competitive reasons.
Similarly, supervision by the authorities needs improving as well. Compliance is monitored by too many different authorities, with little or no collaboration and coordination. Moreover, the Ministry’s Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate is not always present during inspections due to staff shortages. Also, coordination between DCMR, the environmental regulator, and the Public Prosecution Department is not always up to par. Although a considerable effort has been put in, enforcement is still too fragmented.
Still, we have noticed in every day practice that monitoring of BRZO companies has been tightened and that there is less scope for consultations between the authorities and businesses. Although we expect that this report will lead to a further tightening of supervision, the question remains as to whether increased supervision will by definition lead to improved safety. We believe that safety also stands to benefit from a permanent dialogue between government and the business community. An added question is whether enforcement is always justified and enforcement tools may perhaps be used too quickly. There is no such thing as a risk-free society without accidents. Safety (and safety improvements) involves more than just abiding by the rules. People sometimes seem to miss this point.
If you would like to know more about what the authorities expect of a BRZO company or its clients and customers, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Click here to view the "BRZO companies: Lessons learned from Odfjell" investigation report