Over half of Dutch chemical firms violate safety rules

More than half of the 400 chemical- and other companies with a large risk factor in the Netherlands violated safety rules over the past two decades, the Volkskrant reports based on a survey of inspection reports. Over a fifth of the cases involved a medium to serious violation, according to the newspaper.

Five companies violated the rules to such an extent that production had to be stopped because a serious accident was in the making. The most well-known on this list is AkzoNobel Industrial Cheicals in Europoort. Only after measures were taken to solve problems with leakages and explosion risks, could production be restarted.

Companies in Zuid-Brabant in particular seems to have a problem with following the safety rules - 77 percent of companies in Zuid-Brabant violated safety rules at least once over the past two decades. In Zuid-Holland/Zeeland it was 63 percent, according tot he newspaper. 

Ira Helsloot, a professor of safety management in Nijmegen, told the Volkskrant that most of these violations involved "unnecessary regulation with a lot of paperwork". "But there are certainly plenty of companies with such small profit margins, such as in the handling of chemical waste, that they walk the line of the safety regulations and also keep it well hidden from the government", Helsloot said to the newspaper.

He called these companies the "Chemie-Packs of this time". In 2011 there was a massive fire on the Chemie-Pack site in Moerdijk, where hundreds of containers of chemicals were stored The fire started because an employee was trying to thaw a frozen pump with a gas burner. The fire and its extinguishing cause serious pollution in the area and an estimated 70 million euros in damages. Many people in the surrounding area complained of health problems. Three executives from Chemie-Pack were convicted of careless actions and negligence and sentenced to community service and suspended prison terms.

A number of other incidents over the past years raised concerns about the safety of having a chemical company in your area. Last year the Teflon plant in DuPont in Dordrecht leaked carcinogenic formaldehyde into the environment multiple times. And early last year it was revealed that poisonous gas leaked into the atmosphere from Shell in Moerdijk since November 2015.