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September 4, 2017

Rethinking Chemical Safety Risks

Latest posts by Atlantic Research Team (see all)

Chemical plants are basically attributed with large inventories of hazardous materials whose accidental or intentional release could result in catastrophic events. The proximity of chemical plants to residential areas and transportation networks, specifically in industrialized and densely populated European countries such as Belgium, Germany, France, and The Netherlands, makes the consequences of such undesired releases even more catastrophic. Finally, the ever-increasing complexity and interdependencies in the chemical industry, particularly with the emergence of chemical industrial parks (chemical clusters) that incorporate a number of chemical plants within a tight neighborhood (e.g., Port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands), exacerbate the severity and the extent of potential consequences, e.g., via domino effects.

As opposed to safety issues in chemical plants, which can be a matter of random failures, human errors, negligence, or natural hazards, security issues such as terrorist attacks are caused by deliberate actions of human agents with the possible intention of creating maximum damages. Compared to long-established regulations and state-of-the-art techniques in safety risk assessment of hazardous industries, the importance of security risk assessment was drawn into attention mainly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Nevertheless, according to a survey conducted in Belgium, in chemical companies the likelihood of extreme security issues such as terrorist attacks has been deemed very low.

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