GUIDING PRINCIPLES ON PROVISION OF INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES RELATED TO THE PREVENTION OF, AND RESPONSE TO, ACCIDENTS INVOLVING HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES
I. General Principles
1. The following Guiding Principles are designed to facilitate the implementation by Member countries of programmes and policies to ensure that the potentially affected public is well informed about existing or planned hazardous installations and to facilitate the opportunities for the public to provide input, as appropriate, into decision-making by public authorities concerning such installations. These Principles do not prejudice public authorities from instituting more extensive requirements related to provision of information to the public or public participation.
2. These Guiding Principles relate to such hazardous installations defined under applicable law as being capable of giving rise to hazards sufficient to warrant the taking of precautions off-site, excluding nuclear or military installations.
3. These Guiding Principles focus on objectives to be achieved with respect to provision of information to the public and public participation, and not on the procedural approaches which should be followed. It is recognized that Member countries allocate responsibility differently between the public and private sectors and among national, regional and local governments and that Member countries have differing legal and administrative frameworks with regard to prevention of accidents and development of community emergency plans.
4. In implementing this Decision-Recommendation, Member countries should give consideration to the protection of confidential information, as defined under domestic law, including both proprietary data and information protected for reasons of national security.
II. Division of Responsibilities
5. Industry and public authorities each have responsibilities to the public concerning prevention of, and response to, accidents involving hazardous substances.
6. Industry is a primary source of that information which should be made publicly available. It therefore has a responsibility to provide this information to public authorities and, directly or indirectly, to the public. Industry should be prepared to work with the authorities which develop community emergency plans.
7. Public authorities have the responsibility of ensuring that adequate and timely information is provided to the potentially affected public and that appropriate opportunities are available for public participation in certain decision-making processes. Public authorities also have the responsibility of ensuring that adequate community emergency plans are in effect.
III. Provision of Information to the Public
Information to be Provided without Request
8. Those members of the public who might be affected were an accident to occur should be provided with certain information, without request, so that they will be aware of the hazards arising from the installation and will be able to respond appropriately should an accident occur.
9. This information should include specific guidance related to public response in the event of an accident, such as:
• Details on how the potentially affected public will be warned in the event of an accident;
• Details of the actions and behaviour the potentially affected public should take in the event of an accident; and
• The source of post-accident information (e.g., radio or television frequencies).
It should clearly be indicated therein that the information should be read immediately and be kept in a convenient place for reference in the event of an accident.
10. The guidance on what to do in the event of an accident should be adapted to meet the needs of groups of sensitive persons, for example in schools, hospitals and homes for aged people.
11. The following information should also be provided, without request, to the potentially affected public:
• The name of the operator of the installation and the address of the installation;
• The common names or, if more appropriate, the generic names or the general danger classification of the substances involved at the installation which could give rise to an accident capable of causing serious off-site damage, with an indication of their principal harmful characteristics;
• General information relating to the nature of the hazards of accidents capable of causing serious off-site damage, as well as their potential effects on human health and the environment, including property; and
• Details of how further explanatory information can be obtained.
12. The information described in paragraphs 9 and 11 should be comprehensible to the general public and be provided in a format which is easily read and understood.
13. This information should be provided in a timely fashion, be reissued periodically as appropriate, and be updated as necessary.
14. The potentially affected public should also be provided with notification of applications for siting or licensing of a hazardous installation. Decisions concerning such applications should also be publicised.
15. In those cases in which a hazardous installation is located in a frontier region and the country of such installation has transmitted to the other country information referred to above in paragraphs 9 and 11, the country receiving this information should ensure that such information is provided to all persons within its jurisdiction potentially affected in the event of an accident.
16. Arrangements should be made, before an accident, for the timely transmission of information to the public and the media in the case of an accident in order to mitigate adverse effects and to allay unjustified fears.
Information Available upon Request
17. The public should have access, upon request, to certain additional information to allow it to understand the nature of the hazards arising from hazardous installations, understand the reasons for guidance provided, and participate effectively in decision-making processes, as appropriate. Such information would include, for example:
• Any information concerning the hazardous installation which has previously been made publicly available by the installation or public authorities (as appropriate, licenses, environmental impact assessments, operating permits, safety reports, hearing documents);
• A general description of the types of activities undertaken at the installation;
• Additional guidance concerning actions to be taken by the public to protect human health and the environment, including property, in case of an accident and the reasons for such guidance; and
• Other information necessary for effective participation in decision-making, as appropriate.
IV. Public Participation
18. Whenever possible and appropriate, the potentially affected public should be given the opportunity to participate, by providing their views and concerns, when decisions related to siting and licensing of hazardous installations and the development of community emergency plans are being made by public authorities.
19. In all cases, adequate information about the opportunity to participate should be given.
20. As appropriate, a variety of mechanisms for public participation in decision-making processes can be used. These mechanisms can include those for direct public participation, such as open public hearings, and those for indirect public participation by means of, for example, open consultative procedures.
21. In some Member countries, local safety committees have been established with representatives of the installation, local authorities and local residents which, inter alia, facilitate the flow of information from the installation to persons who live and work in the area and co-ordinate local participation in appropriate decision-making processes.
22. The mechanisms for public participation and the scope of participation should be adapted to the nature of the decision being made and to who may be affected by the decision, while taking account of applicable law and practice.
23. In determining who should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes, public authorities should consider which persons are seriously threatened by a potential accident and the nature of the decision being made. For example, in the case of the development of a community emergency preparedness plan, the local community near the hazardous installation might have the opportunity to participate. In the case of a siting decision for an installation which could have serious adverse effects on a watershed, national park or natural resources of more than local concern, provision might be made for broader participation, for example by allowing comments by representatives of public-interest organisations (e.g., environmental, agricultural or forestry groups).
24. Providing an opportunity for public participation should not affect the ultimate responsibilities of the public authorities with respect to decision-making in this area.