"Seveso": What is it about? What is the role of "Seveso" establishments and of the authorities? How to react in case of an emergency?

The term "Seveso” refers to a town in northern Italy, in Lombardy, which suffered the consequences of an industrial accident that took place in 1976 at the Icmesa chemical plant in the municipality of Meda. The accident was caused by the lack of an emergency plan and resulted in the release of toxic products (caustic soda and dioxin) that contaminated the surrounding municipalities, including Seveso. This had major ecological and health consequences and let to the hospitalization of children and death of farm animals.

©MINT (fr. l. to r.) Georges Engel, Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy ; Taina Bofferding, Minister for Home Affairs
(fr. l. to r.) Georges Engel, Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy ; Taina Bofferding, Minister for Home Affairs

With the dual aim of preventing any risk of a major accident on an industrial site with a known potential risk, and of avoiding harmful effects of such an accident to the extent possible, the European Union has had a prevention policy on major industrial risks since 1982. EU legislation has since undergone many changes in order to adapt to the new requirements in terms of safety and risk management.

The European provisions that have been transposed into national law stipulate which establishments are to be classified as "Seveso", further subdividing them according to the substances with which they are working: lower-tier and upper-tier establishments. At present, Luxembourg has 8 lower-tier establishments and 8 upper-tier establishments.

"Seveso"-establishments must implement a prevention policy and submit documents to the competent authorities certifying that they are doing everything possible to limit risks. The Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (ITM), respectively the Environment Agency or the Health Directorate, is responsible for technical tasks such as gathering information, advising, monitoring, inspecting, coordinating and liaising with the operators of the establishments, the public, the authorities of Luxembourg's neighboring countries and the European authorities. This is all the more important when possible accidents are likely to have cross-border repercussions.

In addition to the prevention requirements imposed on establishments and state authorities, the latter are also required to implement an information and awareness-raising policy so that the population is able to appreciate potential risks and react appropriately to protect itself. As part of the information and alerting of the population, the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy launched a sustainable information campaign to make citizens aware of the behavior to adopt in case of an emergency.

Georges Engel took advantage of the launch of the campaign to underline the importance of the ITM. "The ITM is an indispensable player in this field. Its role is to accompany companies while at the same time monitoring them. But the ITM is also the contact point for the authorities in neighboring and European countries."

Taina Bofferding adds that the resilience of the population can only be achieved by consistently providing clear, understandable and accessible information: "This campaign is the starting point for regular information on safety measures and what to do in case of a major accident. The aim is to inform citizens about "Seveso”-establishments, but above all about the behavior to adopt in the event of an accident: enter, close, listen - the precepts to remember for a more resilient population."

In conclusion, the ministers pointed out that citizens are the first link in their own protection through their actions.

More information on these steps can be found in the flyer that will be sent to the whole population as well as on the website dedicated to the "Seveso"-establishments, seveso.lu.

Press release by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy

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