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This article is written by Sidra Khan, a student of Amity University, Noida. The article discusses the rules related to import and storage of Hazardous Chemicals.

Introduction

After independence, there has been a tremendous growth of industrialisation in India. There is a rapid increase in the chemical industry and the use of such hazardous chemicals makes the environment more polluted than before. It is recognised that the release of such toxic substances in the environment is harmful to humans’ health and environment.  In India, chemicals are used in all three sectors, be it primary, secondary or tertiary. So, certain rules have been laid by the government to deal with this. There are Rules for Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals, 1989 (MSHIC). 

Hazardous chemical

  • Meaning

It can be defined as a substance which is harmful and causes serious health issues such as cancer, allergies, breathing problems, poisoning, skin rashes and other dangerous health problems due to the exposure of such chemicals. These chemicals are not only causing damage to people, but they also pollute the air, water and soil that are harmful to humans as well as animals and plants if they are released into the environment.

  • Definition

Rules for Manufacture, storage and import of hazardous chemical defines hazardous chemicals in Rule 2 (e):

  • Any chemicals which satisfy the criteria laid down in Part I of Schedule 1  and is listed in column 2 of Part 2 of this Schedule;
  • Any Chemical listed in column 2 of Schedule 2;
  • Any Chemical listed in column 2 of Schedule 3.

The list of Hazardous Chemicals is given in Part II of Schedule 1. As per the MSIHC Rules, chemicals having intense poisonousness values above than the prescribed levels or fit for delivering major accidents inferable from their physical and compound properties have been said to be hazardous chemicals. These include dye-stuffs, paints, glues, solvents, pesticides, metals like mercury, lead. These substances produce poisonous impacts through oral ingestion or skin contact. Chemical industries which use flammable, explosive, toxic, corrosive materials are covered under these Rules.

  • Effects of Chemical Hazards

Exposure of chemical concoctions usually utilized in work environments can prompt an assortment of short and long term health effects such as harming, skin rashes and scatters of the lung, kidney and liver. A hazardous substance can be breathed in, sprinkled onto the skin and eyes, or swallowed. Although the easiest way for chemicals to enter into a body of a person at a workplace is through inhalation of dust, fumes, smoke, gases and mists.  

Effects of chemical exposure may vary. A minor chemical exposure will result in immediate health effects. It can include such as skin burns, blurred vision, headache and irritation in eyes. Some of the health impacts also include:

  1. Chemical Burns
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Defects by birth
  5. Nervous system disorder

Whereas Chronic health effects are caused when there is repeated exposure to chemicals and which are serious in nature and have long term effects on a person. Problems caused by chemical exposure are:

  1. Cancer
  2. Asthma
  3. Liver Damage
  4. Losing consciousness     
  • Factors of Chemical Exposure

Exposure in the workplace has different effects on health; it may cause both chronic and acute effects. Adverse health impacts rely upon the type of hazardous substance involved and the degree of exposure. Factors which play a vital role in identifying  whether there is an adverse effect of the exposure or not are:

  1. Which type of a chemical it was;
  2. The amount of chemical a person was exposed to;
  3. Time duration of the exposure;
  4. Number of times a person was exposed to it.

These are the factors which help in identifying whether the exposure will have an adverse impact on the human being or not. If a person does not get exposed to the chemical, it cannot make that person sick.  

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Rules for Import and Storage of Hazardous Chemicals

Considering the threat associated with risky hazardous substances, their assembling as well as capacity in enormous amounts at one place unquestionably needs consideration. After a significant measure of consultations with specialists, different Ministries and State Governments, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India has defined the Assembling, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules (MSIHC Rules), in the year 1989 under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. MSIHC guidelines were revised once in 1994 and again in 2000.

According to MSIHC, Rule 2(i) describes ‘isolated housing.’ This is characterized as the storage of specific chemicals in specified quantities not linked to a specified manufacturing process, i.e. the storage of hazardous chemicals, other than the storage at the site listed in Schedule 4, where the quantities of such chemicals as set out in Schedule 2 are at least included.

Rules for manufacture, storage and isolation of Hazardous Chemicals are the principal major efforts taken by the legislature to address the problem of hazardous chemicals in isolated storage. The Rules are applicable when the quantity of the hazardous chemicals are not fulfilling the criteria which are given. 

  • Objectives of the MSIHC Rules
  1. To prevent major accidents occurring due to industrial activities;
  2. To limit the impact of such accidents both on the environment and human being;
  3. To provide a procedure for handling of hazardous chemicals.
  • Regulation for Import of Hazardous Chemicals

A provision is laid down in MSIHC to regulate the import of hazardous chemicals. The import of hazardous chemicals into India is covered by Rule 18. Any importation of those chemicals is said to be hazardous which complies with Part I of Schedule I and Column 2 of Part II criteria. Any person importing such hazardous chemicals must notify or reasonably be allowed to notify the authorities 30 days before the import date, but not beyond the import date.   

  • Information required to be given to the concerned authorities
  1. Name and address of a person who is receiving consignment in India;
  2. Port through which it will enter India;
  3. Mode of transport;
  4. Quantity of chemicals which is importing;
  5. Information regarding complete product safety.

After receiving such information the concerned authorities will either permit the import by adding certain directions which are necessary or authorities can reject the import of hazardous chemicals for the safety of human beings or for the environment. And if the import is permitted then the concerned authorities will convey to the Port authorities about the safe handling of the hazardous chemicals while offloading it. A person who is importing the hazardous chemicals should maintain records as mentioned in Schedule 10. It is his responsibility to transport hazardous chemicals from the port to the destination and transportation must take place in accordance with the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

Important provisions

There are certain important provisions related to the duty of occupier, administrative powers, monitoring or implementation of these Rules. They are to be discussed below:

  • Rule 5: Notification of Major Accident Hazard

If any major accident occurs at the site then the concerned authorities mentioned in Schedule 5 should be informed by the occupier. The report should be made by the occupier related to the instalments and if necessary it should be sent to the concerned authorities. The concerned authorities should fully analyze the report and within 90 days send it to the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Steps taken by the occupier to avoid the repetition of such a major accident shall be notified to the concerned authorities. And if there are any shortcomings that need to be fixed, the authorities will notify the occupier. 

  • Rule 7: Approval and Notification of Sites

An occupier who is willing to undertake any industry activity has to give a report in writing to the concerned authorities to take approval 3 months before performing such activities. Within 60 days of the receipt, the concerned authorities should approve the report. And if the authority is of the opinion that there is a contravention of the provisions of the Rules, then the authority has the power to issue a notice under Rule 19

Before undertaking any industrial activity an occupier should prepare a safety report and that report should be containing information mentioned in Schedule 8. That report should be sent to the concerned authorities 90 days before the commencement of such industrial activity. 

After the amendment in MSIHC Rules in 1994, the occupier of both new and existing industries should make a safety audit report with the help of an expert and send it to the concerned authorities. The occupier should forward that audit report after adding their comments to the concerned authorities within 30 days after completing the Audit. 

If the concerned authority is of the opinion that there should be some changes in it, then it can issue improvement notice under rule 19 within 45 days. 

  • Rule 13: Preparation of On-Site Emergency Plan

A site emergency plan should be prepared for an occupant, where they must discuss in case of major accidents occur, how they are to handle them and the names of those responsible for safety. He has to make sure a mock drill of the emergency on-site plan should be held every 6 months.  In the case of new industrial activity, an occupier should make the emergency plan before commencement of it. And in existing industrial activity, an occupier should make an emergency plan within 90 days of commencing these rules. 

  • Rule 14: Preparation of Off-Site Emergency Plan

Concerned authorities have to make the off-site emergency plan and it is their duty to keep it up to date. They should make sure that the rehearsal of the off-site emergency plan is held once in a year. In the case of new industrial activity, concerned authorities should make the emergency plan before commencement of it. In the existing industrial activity, the concerned authority should make an emergency plan within 6 months of commencing these rules.

The concerned authorities have the power to issue an improvement notice to the occupier if they are of the opinion that the occupier has contravened the provisions of the Rules. 

Effectiveness

MSIHC Rules are concerned about the hazardous chemicals which are harmful to human beings as well as to the environment. Those chemicals are called hazardous which have severe toxicity values and are capable of causing major hazard accidents, because of having physical and chemical properties. If they are released in the environment they can pollute water, air, soil and which can cause risk to man and animals. Various health issues will be faced by human beings if these hazardous chemicals got released or major accidents took place. The main concern is the storage of these chemicals safely so they cannot harm people or the environment.

The Manufacture Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules are considered to be as a step in the right direction. It puts certain restrictions on the occupier and as well as on the import. These restrictions have made it easier for the occupier to know about his duties and responsibilities thus helped in maintaining a safe work environment. As MSIHC Rules laid down the provisions regarding storage of chemicals, safety audits done on regular intervals by the occupier, labelling or marking of containers, approval of sites for carrying industrial activity, regulations regarding the import of hazardous chemicals, in what manner import of such substances should be done, what are the information required by the authorities for import. Rules regarding the preparation of on-site and off-site emergency plans, to prevent the hazard accident. Mock drills need to be done at a site, workers are well aware of what to do in emergency situations. These all are the important features which are making MSIHC Rules effective and helping in preventing major hazard accidents.    

Suggestions

To control or to reduce hazardous chemicals and unsafe conditions at the workplace, one must use the most effective methods to control it. The occupier of the industry should consider certain points:

  • He should reduce the hazardous chemicals from the workplace;
  • If there is a need then should put certain barriers between workers and hazardous chemicals;
  • Effective control should be implemented.

MSIHC Rules are vague about the demarcating responsibilities of a person with regard to the labelling and marking of hazardous chemicals.

Rule 17 (4) states only about the labelling of hazardous chemicals, without even specifically mentioning whether this responsibility extends to all persons or only to those persons who are involved in manufacturing, handling, supplying or transporting.

MSIHC Rules only mention the chemicals individually in the Schedule. It confuses their adequacy with the substances that contain hazardous chemicals, for example in formulas, mixtures or different articles which have separate disposal of the hazardous compound. The MSIHC Rules include various ways to tackle the substance classification and routinely revise the schedules to include new hazardous chemicals. This is an inefficient approach to deal with regulations.

Detailed definitions should be incorporated under MSIHC Rules as they don’t characterize key terms that are crucial to the powerful guideline of hazardous chemicals. As of now, they also don’t characterize the qualities of hazardous chemicals, what establishes lethal dose, hazardous zones, or harm from chemical mishaps.

MSICH Rule 17 talks about the labelling and marking of the hazardous chemicals of the container, name and address of the manufacturer or importer, contents of the container, physical, chemical and toxicological data. Some more safeguards need to be added to these rules.  

Safety Data Sheets provision limits the access of the general public regarding data sheets. It should be available free of cost, containing information regarding hazardous substances. A summary of Safety Data Sheets should be prepared for the general public and make available to the people in the local language of that area. And transporting those substances in some other state, then it should be translated into the language of that state.

Conclusion

Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 are made under the provisions of Environmental Protection Act, 1986. These rules specifically deal with hazardous chemicals and prescribe the manner in which Storage and import of chemicals should be done. These rules lay down certain duties and responsibilities on the occupier and give power to concerned authorities to ensure proper implementation of MSIHC Rules. 

These Rules cover the problems related to the handling of hazardous chemicals. Hence, it is beneficial to read and understand the provisions of the same. 


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