Limburg chemical estate must be safer, Safety Board says

Industrial area Chemelot in Geleen
The large industrial area Chemelot in Geleen

The Chemelot industrial estate in Geleen, Limburg is not safe enough, the Dutch Safety Board said on Thursday. The safety level at the chemical estate must be raised, especially if the complex wants to grow, reports.

The Safety Board launched an investigation at Chemelot following a series of incidents in a short time. In 2016 someone was killed in a fire, and dangerous substances leaked into the environment three times. Chemelot houses over a hundred chemical companies, like DSM and SABIC, as well as a campus for thousands of researchers and students. The complex, which is around 8 square kilometers in size, is surrounded by residential areas. 

"Safety and security were not always in order, work instructions were not observed, and possible risks were not identified", the researchers said. The chemical installations are also outdated. They are maintained, but not modernized. Each company individually works to comply with laws and regulations, the Safety Board said, but "an overarching vision on the safety of Chemelot as a whole is lacking". 

The Dutch Safety Board also reprimanded the province of Limburg, which is responsible for Chemelot's permit, as well as for supervision and enforcement in the complex industrial estate. According to the Board, Limburg did not properly establish "what level of safety is being strived for", how Chemelot should achieve this level and what the province will do about it. 

In response to the Safety Board's report, the province of Limburg said that it will further reduce the risks on the industrial estate. For example by making the permit more strict. Limburg also wants to make clearer agreements about an overarching vision of Chemelot's safety. These agreements must be better recorded, a spokesperson for the province said to the newspaper. 

Chemelot said in response that it is already working on improving safety. Chemelot speaks of "critical points of attention and areas for improvement", adding that "these points have since been taken up further: some have already been implemented, others are still in the process." The company implemented extra inspections and additional inventory of all risks. The industrial estate wants more clarity about better mutual cooperation between companies by the end of this year.

"The Safety Board report is a good mirror to get things even better", Chemelot director Robert Claasen said, according to the newspaper. "The Safety Board will come back in a year, we are now going to push for the better cooperation, which has already been set in motion." This will happen under the supervision of external advisers and inspectors. "We are already putting people together to learn lessons from each other and from now on we will also check what happened with those lessons."


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