The Ministry of Environment is wholly amending the current chemical safety management system according to the Chemicals Control Act (CCA). It is also in the process of enacting the “Act on the Registration and Evaluation, etc. of Chemicals” (AREC). Both the CCA (June 4, 2013) and AREC (May 22, 2013) were promulgated in the first half of 2013 and will be enacted as of January 1, 2015. As of 2014, the Ministry of Environment is working towards the enactment of subordinate laws that contain specific details on the new system.
Reinforced control of chemicals and chemical accidents was initiated when hydrofluoric acid leaked from a chemical plant in Gumi-si in 2012, resulting in five employee deaths. Crops withered and the health of residents and livestock was affected in the surrounding area, which was declared a special disaster zone. This incident gave rise to greater social demand for a system to prevent and respond to chemical accidents. Chemical accident prevention and response policies are being implemented as part of the current policy focus of the Park Geun-hye administration.
A toxic chemicals business permit system will be introduced by the newly enacted CCA. To obtain a toxic chemicals business permit, an off-site consequence analysis report, test report, and risk management plan must be submitted in addition to being equipped with facilities, equipment, and staff of a certain standard. The off-site consequence analysis system aims to prevent chemical accidents at the source. It involves quantitatively assessing the potential off-site impact of chemical accidents and applying the findings from the installation stage of chemical handling facilities.
Furthermore, fines have been significantly increased to reinforce the responsibility of toxic chemicals businesses. When the safety management of toxic chemicals is outsourced, the ordering party is responsible for managing the contractor, and it must not insist on unreasonable operation. Any legal violation by the contractor also affects the ordering party.
Every five years, handlers of substances requiring preparation for accidents must formulate a risk management plan that includes chemical accident leakage scenarios, emergency action plans, and damage restoration. This measure is stronger than previous regulations, which required handlers of substances requiring preparation for accidents of a certain size or larger to formulate self-prevention plans.
The reporting system for accidents was strengthened, requiring chemical handlers to address any chemical accident by taking emergency action according to the risk management plan and immediately reporting to the associated institution. Previous regulations required accidents to be reported only when there were concerns regarding human health or environmental risks, resulting in many reports being delayed or omitted.
Areas that are highly likely to be affected by accidents are designated as special control zones, where a specialized institution can be established to provide constant supervision regarding chemical control and respond to any accidents.
The chemical accident response system was reorganized so that the Ministry of Environment is in sole charge of all chemical accidents and field mediators can be assigned to accident sites to provide accident recovery and other assistance based on scientific decisions. The standard manual on chemical accidents is also being revised.
The National Institute of Chemical Safety (NICS) was newly established in 2013 as a specialized institution to be in charge of chemical accident prevention and responses. The NICS maintains an accident response information system, revises accident response manuals, provides assistance for accident site response and recovery, and offers professional training for chemical handling and response staff. It acts as a control tower for risk management and responses. It plans to run a chemical accident and anti-terrorism training course for the Ministry of Environment, local governments, firefighters, and other persons in charge of accident response. It will develop new training programs for field mediators and disaster prevention centers.
To share and integrate chemical accident-related staff and systems dispersed among government ministries, associated government ministries will work together to establish “chemical disaster prevention centers” in major industrial complexes to provide joint guidance and inspections for chemicals businesses and share information on chemicals.
Improvements will be made to the Chemical Accident Response Information System (CARIS) previously operated by the National Institute of Environmental Research to implement measures such as integration with information from other government ministries and establishment of a control system and enhanced driver training regarding vehicles transporting dangerous substances.
The Ministry of Environment, while protecting people’s health and the environment from the harmfulness of chemicals through preventive measures, worked towards enacting the Act on the Registration and Evaluation, etc. of Chemicals (hereinafter “AREC”) starting from late 2010 to promote the increased competitiveness of the Korean chemical industry. It was promulgated in May 2013 and will be enforced as of January 1, 2015. Enactment of AREC gained momentum due to accidents involving damage caused by humidifier disinfectants that occurred around 2011. It was necessary to identify accurate information on chemicals distributed in Korea.
The key provisions of AREC provide that: (1) Manufacturers, importers, and sellers of any new chemicals or not less than 1 ton of any existing chemical are to report on matters such as output and purpose on a yearly basis; (2) Any individual who wishes to manufacture or import any new chemical or not less than 1 ton of any existing chemical subject to registration must submit information and be registered under the competent authorities; and (3) Registered chemicals must undergo toxicity evaluations and risk assessments and be classified into poisonous substances, permitted substances, and restricted and prohibited substances. A control system for chemicals was also introduced. It requires any product containing toxic chemicals to be reported, and any product that may cause harm must be produced and imported according to safety and labeling requirements.
The newly introduced AREC creates information on the toxicity and harmfulness of chemicals and allows the information to be shared between industries and the government. Businesses will be able to use the information for safety management and the government will also be able to formulate more-effective policies.
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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38
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