Anyone who handles certain quantities of certain hazardous substances is the operator of an operating area in accordance with Section 5a of the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG). The substances and quantity thresholds are regulated in the Hazardous Incident Ordinance (Twelfth Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act - 12th BImSchV). The Hazardous Incident Ordinance also stipulates that the operator of an operating area must take measures to prevent hazardous incidents and, in the event of an incident, to keep the effects as low as possible. This applies regardless of whether the plant in question requires a permit under immission control legislation or not. There are currently around 500 such operating areas in Bavaria. Most of these are large industrial plants such as refineries and chemical plants, but biogas plants and hazardous substance storage facilities can also be operating areas.
The safety of persons in the operating area and also in the neighborhood as well as the protection of the environment must be ensured, otherwise the plant of the operating area, from which an impermissible hazard emanates, may not be operated. When taking precautions to prevent incidents, the operator must take various causes into account, unless these can be reasonably excluded. Such causes can be, for example, operational sources of danger such as the failure of technical equipment, but also environmental sources of danger (e.g. earthquakes, flooding, infrastructure) or interference by unauthorized persons. Every operator of operating areas is also obliged to set up and apply a so-called safety management system.
Sufficient distances must be ensured to protect human health and the environment when establishing new operating areas and in the event of changes in their surroundings (e.g. approaching residential buildings). The operator of an operating area with a particularly high hazard potential (operating area of the "upper class") must prepare a detailed safety report and inform all persons and facilities with public access as well as operating sites or neighboring operating areas that could be affected by an incident in detail about safety measures and the correct behavior in the event of an incident. Operators of operating areas with a lower hazard potential (operating areas of the "lower class") must also generally make various information available to the public.
The responsible authorities in Bavaria are the immission control authorities and - if external emergency plans have to be drawn up - the disaster control authorities (i.e. usually the district administrative authority, i.e. the district administration office or the district-free municipality). As the handling of hazardous substances also affects the employees who work directly with these substances, the occupational health and safety authorities (trade supervisory offices) are also involved in inspecting and advising the operating areas. The water management authorities may also be involved, e.g. due to water protection. Monitoring under accident law with the involvement of all authorities concerned is carried out under the leadership of the responsible government.
If you are interested in more detailed information about a specific operating area, please contact the operator, as they will have information available about their operations and the measures they have taken.
The European legal basis for the Major Accidents Ordinance is Directive 2012/18/EU of July 4, 2012 on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances (so-called Seveso III Directive). The Seveso III Directive was essentially transposed into German law by revising the 12th BImSchV and the Federal Immission Control Act.