The Netherlands is a densely populated country where small incidents can have large consequences. It is the task of the Dutch government to keep the risks of incidents as small as possible.

RIVM’s role in incident prevention

The Dutch government has a responsibility to ensure the ‘external safety’ of the population. External safety is applied here in terms of offering protection to people living near routes over which hazardous substances are transported and near companies producing, processing or storing these substances. RIVM plays a significant signalling role in alerting the government to high-risk situations. RIVM also supports external safety policy by assisting the enforcement of the environmental protection legislation as a means of preventing environmental incidents. Finally, RIVM supports the government’s prevention policy in setting up, implementing and enforcing rules and regulations for incident prevention.

Risk situations inventoried

A cost-effective approach to high-risk situations demands insight into the extent of these risks. RIVM, therefore, collects data on installations and facilities and analyses their risks.

Advising on safety aspects taken up in environmental permits

RIVM advises on the safety clauses in environmental permits and consults with the ministries on measures to reduce risks to safety. Municipalities and provinces make inspections to verify if companies meet the requirements in the permits. The inspectorates for Employment and for the Ministry of I&M have a supervisory role in ensuring that recommendations are implemented. RIVM can lend its support to the supervisory bodies.

Assessing and estimating risks

Risks caused by complex chemical installations, for example, or routes over which hazardous substances are transported can be estimated using computer models. RIVM contributes here by developing the mathematical rules for application to these models and by drawing up the criteria for these rules.

Learning from incidents

The occurrence of disasters and incidents acts a trigger stimulating evaluation and analysis of environmental permits, and thus leading to adjustment of current environmental regulations. Such occurrences can also mean that alternative measures will be taken the next time an incident occurs.