Chemsafe - An Industry-Led Mutual Aid Scheme

CHEMSAFE Users Guide

Please note this information is taken from the CIA brochure.

CHEMSAFE - the UK Chemical Industry Scheme for Assistance in Distribution Emergencies, is a voluntary scheme, first set up in 1974, run by the Chemical Industries Association (CIA). It has been developed specifically to respond to land-based chemical distribution incidents, including those at docks, harbours and airports. The Scheme applies to all chemicals, not just those which are classified as hazardous.
CHEMSAFE is an integral part of the chemical industry's Responsible Care initiative and is consistent with the objectives of the International Chemical Environment (ICE) programme of the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC).
A completely revised scheme, incorporating clear performance standards and detailed operating criteria, was launched in 1996.
What is its purpose?
The aim of CHEMSAFE is to provide rapid, accurate information and advice, supported, if necessary, by practical assistance, to the Public Emergency Services in the event of incidents occurring during the distribution of chemicals.  It seeks to ensure that an appropriate and co-ordinated response is made to help minimise any potential adverse effects on the public, property and the environment.  The Scheme is not intended to deal with site incidents where the chemicals involved are manufactured and used by the site occupier.
Who has been involved in its development?
The operational requirements for CHEMSAFE have been developed by the chemical industry together with the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services, the Environment Agency, the Road Haulage Association and the International Tank Container Organisation.  The definition of performance standards and operating criteria enables the effectiveness of the Scheme to be monitored and continually improved.
How does it operate?
In the event of a distribution incident the Emergency Services, usually the Fire Service, contact the specialist telephone number which appears on the vehicle, on labels, on packages or on accompanying documentation, to obtain immediate information and advice.  If additional assistance is required, arrangements are in place to enable trained industry representatives to attend the scene to provide on the spot advice.  They will provide expert guidance on how to tackle the chemical hazards associated with the incident and help to ensure that the situation is rendered safe in the most appropriate way as soon as practically possible.
CHEMSAFE also recognises the essential contribution of hauliers, transport specialists and chemical waste disposal companies in dealing with the practical consequences of chemical incidents.
In case of difficulty, for example where a telephone number cannot be found or the consignment is owned by a foreign company, the National Chemical Emergency Centre at Harwell can be called upon as a back-up to provide expert advice.
What are the commitments of membership?
CHEMSAFE commits CIA members to providing expert help and advice when problems arise during the transport and distribution of their own or, in some cases, a member company's products.  The Scheme is designed to provide an escalating level of response depending on the seriousness of the incident.
There are three response levels:
Level 1 - Provision of Information
All member companies are required to provide safety, health and environmental information and advice on their own products on being contacted by the Emergency Services at any time of the day or night on every day of the year.
Product hazard information is also required to be supplied to the National Chemical Emergency Centre to enable them to provide immediate response should the Emergency Services contact them rather than the chemical owner or supplier.  It can also be useful in incidents where the product owner or supplier is unknown, overseas or cannot be identified.
Level 2  - Provision of advice at the incident scene
When responding at this level to incidents involving their own chemicals, companies undertake to send a representative to the scene to assess the incident's impact and provide detailed advice to the Emergency Services.
A number of companies have also undertaken to operate a "CHEMSAFE Response Network" which will provide assistance to the Emergency Services on behalf of a chemical owner/supplier who is remote from the scene or where the owner/supplier is unknown.
Level 3  - Provision of practical assistance at the scene
This level of response involves the co-ordinated assistance of the chemical company and the distribution haulier, together with chemical waste disposal and vehicle recovery specialists, to make the situation safe, recover products and equipment and carry out any necessary clean up.  Co-ordination of the non-emergency services will be the responsibility of the member company who will have all the necessary contracts and plans in place including prior rehearsal and training.
Companies are only expected to make provision for this level of response for their own products.
How much does it cost?
Nothing, but there are resource implications in meeting the requirements and standards of membership.
Is special insurance necessary?
Not normally, but a company should confirm with its insurers, whether acting for its own products or those of another company, that its policies cover claims for injury, loss or damage in the event of it being proved that any of its employees had been negligent.
What are the benefits of membership?
By providing rapid and appropriate response to chemical distribution incidents, CHEMSAFE provides essential support to the Emergency Services, reduces risks to people and the environment, decreases public disruption and helps to protect the image of the company and the industry.  Membership also provides the opportunity to seek direct assistance from other member companies in the Scheme.
Is special training needed?
Training is an indispensable part of the development and maintenance of any effective emergency response system.  The training needs of each person likely to play a part in responding to a chemical incident should be based on their role and responsibilities as defined in written procedures.  Further details of external training available can be obtained from CIA.
National Chemical Emergency Centre
The National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC), based at Harwell, Oxfordshire, provides a 24-hour expert response service to the Emergency Services as a back-up to company CHEMSAFE procedures.
The CHEMSAFE Scheme is administered by the Chemical Industries Association under the auspices of the Chemical Industry Safety, Health and Environment Council (CISHEC).  The Scheme has two advisory committees which meet on a regular basis:
The CHEMSAFE Industry Group (CIG) is concerned with matters of policy and monitors the operational aspects of the Scheme.  It endeavours to ensure that the performance standards for the three response levels meet the expectations of the Emergency Services and the public.
The CIG also develops guidance to help CIA member companies meet / maintain these standards and oversees the recommended training requirements.
The CHEMSAFE Liaison Group (CLG), which brings together a wide range of organisations with an interest in distribution emergency response, identifies and progresses joint initiatives, addresses common problems and seeks to share lessons learned from responding to and dealing with specific incidents.  Membership of the CLG includes CIG members together with representatives from the following:

  • Ambulance Officers Association.
  • Association of Chief Police Officers.
  • Association of Chief Police Offices (Scotland).
  • Chemical Business Association.
  • Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association.
  • Environmental Services Association.
  • Health and Safety Executive.
  • Home Office Fire Services Inspectorate.
  • International Tank Container Organisation.
  • Ports Safety Organisation.
  • Railtrack plc.
  • Regional CHEMSAFE Groups.
  • Road Haulage Association.
  • The Environment Agency.
  • The Highways Agency.
  • Water Services Association.

Further information
Full details of CHEMSAFE are available in a CIA brochure which sets out clear performance standards and operating criteria for the three response levels, together with comprehensive advice on establishing company procedures. It also provides information and guidance on attending the incident scene, legal liability/insurance, reporting and media communication and auditing.
Copies can be obtained from:
CIA Publications
Kings Buildings
Smith Square
Tel:   020 7834 3399
Fax: 020 7834 4469
First published March 1996
Second edition (with revisions) December 1996
Third edition (with revisions) May 1999