Major accidents involving dangerous substances

Major accidents involving dangerous substances

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Major accidents involving dangerous substances


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Civil protection

Major accidents involving dangerous substances

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 96/82/EC of 9 December 1996 on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances [See amending act(s)].


This Directive (Seveso II) replaced Directive 82/501/EEC (Seveso I, named after the Italian town which suffered exposure to an accidental release of dioxin in 1976).

Seveso establishments

The Directive’s scope was both broadened and simplified. It is applicable to any establishment where dangerous substances are present, or likely to be produced as a result of an accident, in quantities equal to or in excess of the quantities listed in the Annex. The Directive does not cover:

  • military establishments;
  • hazards created by ionising radiation;
  • the carriage of dangerous substances by road, rail, air and inland waterways;
  • the carriage of dangerous substances in pipelines outside the establishments covered by the Directive;
  • the exploitation of minerals, with the exception of chemical and thermal treatment operations and storage connected with such operations which lead to the presence of dangerous substances;
  • mineral prospecting and offshore exploitation activities;
  • waste landfill sites.

General obligations of the operator

Member States must ensure that the operator:

  • takes all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and to limit their consequences for man and the environment;
  • is required to prove to the competent authority that all the necessary measures provided for by the Directive have been taken.

The burden of proof for the latter obligation rests on the operator.


The Directive includes an obligation to notify under the principle that it is illegal for enterprises to hold large quantities of dangerous substances without informing the competent authorities within the time-limits specified by the Directive. This notification must contain the following details:

  • the name of the operator and the address of the establishment;
  • the registered place of business of the operator;
  • the name or position of the person in charge of the establishment;
  • information sufficient to identify the dangerous substances or category of substances involved;
  • the quantity and physical form of the dangerous substance or substances involved;
  • the activity or proposed activity of the installation or storage facility;
  • the immediate environment of the establishment.

In the event of a change in the situation (for example, the permanent closure of an establishment), the operator must immediately inform the competent authority.

Prevention policy

Member States must ensure:

  • that the operator draws up a document setting out his major-accident prevention policy;
  • that the policy is properly implemented.

Safety report

Member States must require the operator to produce a safety report for the purposes of:

  • demonstrating that a major-accident prevention policy and a safety management system have been put into effect;
  • demonstrating that major-accident hazards have been identified and that the necessary measures have been taken to prevent such accidents and to limit their consequences;
  • demonstrating that adequate safety and reliability have been incorporated into the design, construction, operation and maintenance of any installation, storage facility, equipment and infrastructure connected with its operation which are linked to major-accident hazards inside the establishment;
  • demonstrating that internal emergency plans have been drawn up;
  • supplying information to enable an external plan to be drawn up;
  • providing sufficient information to the competent authorities.

The safety report must contain certain specific information, including an updated inventory of the dangerous substances present in the establishment.

The report must be reviewed:

  • at least every five years, or
  • at any other time at the initiative of the operator or the request of the competent authority, where justified by new facts, or
  • in the event of a site being modified.

Under certain conditions, the operator may be granted a dispensation by the competent authority from providing certain information in the safety report, without this affecting the obligation to submit the report, however. Member States must notify the Commission of any dispensations, and the reasons why they were granted.

Emergency plans

Member States must ensure that all operators obliged to submit a safety report also draw up an internal emergency plan and supply the competent authorities with the information necessary to draw up an external emergency plan. The emergency plans must be reviewed, tested and where necessary revised and updated at least every three years.

Precautions regarding location

The competent authority must:

  • identify establishments or groups of establishments where the risk or consequences of a major accident could be increased due to the location and the proximity of the establishments and their holdings of dangerous substances;
  • ensure an exchange of information and cooperation between the establishments.

Information on safety measures

Member States must ensure that the objectives of preventing major accidents are taken into account in their land-use policies, notably through controls on the siting of new establishments, modifications to existing establishments and new developments (transport links, residential areas, etc.) in the vicinity of existing establishments. They must take into account the need, in the long term, to ensure that appropriate distances are maintained or created between establishments and residential areas.

Member States must ensure that information on safety measures and on the requisite behaviour in the event of an accident is supplied, without their having to request it, to persons liable to be affected by a major accident. They must also ensure that safety reports are made permanently available to the public.

Information to be provided following a major accident

Following a major accident, the operator must:

  • inform the competent authority;
  • provide them with information on the circumstances of the accident, the dangerous substances involved, the data available for assessing the effects of the accident on people and the environment and the emergency measures taken;
  • inform them of the steps envisaged to alleviate the effects of the accident and to prevent any recurrence of such an accident;
  • update the information provided.

The competent authority must:

  • ensure that emergency measures have been taken;
  • collect the information necessary for a full analysis of the accident;
  • ensure that the operator takes any necessary remedial measures;
  • make recommendations on future preventive measures.

Information to be provided by Member States to the Commission

Member States must inform the Commission of major accidents which have occurred within their territory. The information must initially comprise:

  • the name and address of the authority responsible for the report;
  • the date, time and place of the major accident;
  • the name of the operator and the address of the establishment;
  • a brief description of the circumstances of the accident;
  • a brief description of the emergency measures taken and of the immediate precautions necessary to prevent recurrence.

In order to fulfil its obligations with respect to informing Member States, the Commission must establish a file and an information system to collect all the data on major accidents occurring within the territory of Member States.


The competent authorities must organise a system of inspections so as to ensure:

  • that the operator can demonstrate that he has provided appropriate means for preventing major accidents and limiting their consequences;
  • that the safety report is accurate and complete;
  • that information has been supplied to the public.

Prohibition of operations

Member States must prohibit the use or bringing into use of any establishment, installation or storage facility where the measures taken by the operator for the prevention of accidents are inadequate. Member States may also prohibit operations if the operator has not submitted, within the specified period:

  • the notification;
  • the reports;
  • any other information required by the Directive.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 96/82/EC



OJ L 10 of 14.1.1997

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2003/105/EC



OJ L 345 of 31.12.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003


OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008


OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 96/82/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated versionis for information only.

Related Acts

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances [COM(2010) 781 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
On 21 December 2010 the Commission adopted a proposal for a new directive (Seveso III) to follow up the changes made to the EU’s system for the classification of dangerous substances, to which the Directive refers, and to clarify and update certain provisions in order to improve its implementation (strengthened provisions concerning inspections and public access to information).
Codecision procedure 2010/0377/COD

Commission Decision 2009/10/EC of 2 December 2008 establishing a major accident report form pursuant to Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances [Official Journal L 6 of 10.1.2009].

Commission Decision 98/433/EC of 26 June 1998 on harmonised criteria for dispensations according to Article 9 of Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances [Official Journal L 192 of 8.7.1998].

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