New challenges: major accidents prevention remains an ongoing task

The development of new substances and Switzerland’s growing population density, both of which increase the potential for serious damage, shows that the Major Accidents Ordinance requires constant adaptation to current circumstances

Since its entry into force in 1991, the MAO has been updated several times and adapted to new information and requirements. The latest addition to the ordinance concerns among other things highly active substances, which were included in its scope of application in 2015. The chemical industry is developing increasingly effective and active molecules that have strong impacts even in very small quantities, hence regulation based on the usual thresholds is insufficient.

"The fact that highly active substances are now given special consideration in the MAO is due to the close collaboration between the FOEN and the cantonal authorities," explains Martin Merkofer. The action requirement was identified jointly with the inspection authorities and major chemical concerns Roche, Novartis, Lonza, Bachem and Syngenta, and the management of these substances is defined in the context of the Major Accidents Ordinance. "They were all very cooperative and willingly assume their responsibility for the handling of these substances," reports the FOEN expert.

Coordination with spatial planning

The prevention of major accidents will also remain a constant task in the future - not least because Switzerland's population density is increasing and an accident in a factory or on a transport route could cause harm to a greater number of people. Hence, the coordination of major accidents prevention with spatial planning now assumes a more important role when it comes to minimizing the potential damage arising from a major accident. To conclude, Martin Merkofer emphasizes that: "the operational inspections that must be carried out by the authorities in accordance with the Major Accidents Ordinance play a vital role in maintaining the high level of safety that has been achieved in Switzerland." Hence the Major Accidents Ordinance makes an important contribution to ensuring the safety of Switzerland as both a living and economic space.

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Last modification 28.10.2016

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