RIVM has analysed 326 incidents involving hazardous substances that took place at chemical companies between 2004 and 2018. These incidents posed a threat to the safety of workers. A total of 215 persons were injured, including five fatalities. The nature, scale and causes of the incidents remained the same during the period analysed. The number of incidents per year with relatively serious consequences also did not change significantly during the same period.
Hazardous substances were released in 90% of the incidents. A fire or explosion occurred in 28%. In three incidents (1%), workers entered a confined space that contained hazardous substances. Most of the incidents took place during normal work activities (60%) or during maintenance (20%). Victims inhaled toxic or hazardous substances or suffered burn wounds caused by chemical reactions or heat. The incidents that took place during maintenance resulted in a relatively larger number of victims.
Chemical companies are responsible for ensuring that their installations are in order and that their production processes and activities are carried out safely. The incidents took place because things went wrong during the regular operational processes. The resulting deviations were not noticed in time. One of the ways to improve safety is to implement suitable measures to identify and correct these deviations in time before incidents occur. This would, for example, reduce the risk of incidents occurring as a result of unwanted human actions or material degradation.
Incident investigations carried out by the SZW (Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment) Inspectorate were used for the analysis at hand. RIVM is commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment to analyse the similarities and differences between the investigated incidents. Inspection services can use this analysis for their inspection and enforcement strategies. Companies can use the insights gained to improve safety.
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