Comparative study of regulations on management of major hazards
A comparative study of regulations on management of major hazards was commissioned by the Agreement from the specialised centre in Florival (Belgium). The aim was to take stock of the legislation and practice of the Agreement's 26 member states concerning risk prevention, crisis management, rehabilitation, and controls and sanctions in the field of disaster management.
In addition to the risks existing at national level, the survey conducted covered four separate aspects:
- prevention of major hazards: competent authorities, consultation structures, emergency planning, public information;
- crisis management: competent authorities, warning systems, communication in times of crisis, operational forces;
- rehabilitation: competent authorities, compensation arrangements;
- sanction and control: competent authorities, sanctions.
Information was requested on the systems for dealing with the following hazards:
- natural hazards: avalanches, storms, drought, earthquakes, floods, forest fires, landslides and volcanic hazards;
- technological hazards: chemical and industrial hazards, transport and storage
- of dangerous substances, traffic accidents, marine pollution and nuclear hazards.
Questionnaires were sent to all of the Agreement's permanent correspondents (mainly the representatives of the ministries competent for disaster management). The questions focused in particular on the competent authorities: Who is competent? What are their powers and responsibilities? What is the legislative basis for them? If a legislative basis is lacking, what powers and responsibilities do they exercise in practice?
The final document gives an idea of the existing arrangements and also of the legal shortcomings in the 26 countries covered. It is accordingly a snapshot of the existing regulations. However, its main interest lies in the use that can be made of its findings, and three avenues for exploring those findings can immediately be identified:
- drawing global conclusions valid to a greater or lesser extent for all the countries concerned,
- analysing other aspects to obtain a better understanding of the risk management situation;
- issuing possible recommendations for improving the existing arrangements.
Four main conclusions can be drawn from the study:
- the distribution of powers and responsibilities is extremely complex, with a multitude of agencies
- at the national, regional and local levels, leading to disparity in the legal instruments;
- an integrated approach covering all four aspects is lacking: crisis management is very well organised, thanks to co-ordination efforts, but there is no umbrella organisation with overall responsibility;
- structural rehabilitation mechanisms are few and far between: rehabilitation is too often
- confined to emergency budgetary measures taken in the immediate wake of a disaster;
- weaknesses in the sanctions and controls applied, often due to understaffing of inspectorates, result in controls which lay too much emphasis on punitive measures and are not dissuasive in nature.