China to Increase Information Transparency for Hazardous Chemical Management

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December 20, 2016Xiaolu WangBlog


The State Council of the People's Republic of China issued the "Comprehensive Action Plan on the Safety Control of Hazardous Chemicals" (危险化学品安全综合治理方案) (the Action Plan) on 29 November 2016. The Action Plan aims to further strengthen the decisions and policies regarding safety management of hazardous chemicals, in light of the explosion accident that occurred in Tianjin last year. The Action Plan does not impose any direct requirements on individual facilities. Instead, it provides guidelines and goals for government agencies responsible for safety supervision of hazardous chemicals in China. Specifically, the Action plan outlines 40 major enforcement actions to be taken by relevant authorities from December 2016 to November 2019. It also provides targeted deadlines for each individual enforcement action. The Action Plan has an impact on facilities that produce, store, use, sell, import, transport, or dispose of hazardous chemicals.

3E Analysis

Major focus of the Action Plan

The Action Plan focuses on the following major goals for safety supervision and management of hazardous chemicals:

  • Conduct risk assessments and surveys of existing hazardous chemical facilities. Safety authorities at all levels will conduct onsite inspections of hazardous chemical facilities, with a major focus on the production, storage, use, sales, transport, and disposal of hazardous chemical in industrial parks and ports. By March 2018, a comprehensive hazardous chemical risk distribution map must be formulated by safety authorities at all levels. Detailed information on industries and hazardous chemicals subject to major scrutiny can be found under the Catalogue of Industries with Safety Risks Associated with Hazardous Chemicals (涉及危险化学品安全风险的行业品种目录);
  • Strengthen the supervision of hazardous chemical production facilities, with a special focus on chemicals with high risks (高危化学品), serious hazard installations, and transport of hazardous chemicals. The safety authorities in China will formulate and publish a catalogue of chemicals with high risks. Examples of these chemicals include ammonium nitrate, nitrocellulose, and sodium cyanide. In addition, by March 2018, safety authorities must finish developing a list of hazardous chemical facilities and companies that are to be closed, transferred, or relocated due to their safety risks;
  • Clarify governmental responsibilities for activities involving hazardous chemicals, such as the production and transport of these chemicals;
  • Develop and implement stricter laws, regulations, and standards for the safety management of hazardous chemicals;
  • Establish an accountability system for private facilities and companies that aims to reflect their safety management level of activities involving hazardous chemicals;
  • Build upon and further strengthen the professional capacity of the safety supervision and management personnel of government authorities;
  • Develop an information-sharing system nationwide and promote information-sharing among government agencies with regard to hazardous chemical management; and
  • Improve the training system for professional safety personnel for hazardous chemical management. 

Companies should note that in addition to providing general guidelines for the safety management of hazardous chemicals, the Action Plan points out various major areas that require close attention of facilities. For instance, it emphasizes the implementation of SDS-related requirements. Specifically, companies that produce, import, or export hazardous chemicals in China must ensure an accurate, timely, and comprehensive communication of the hazardous characteristics and proper methods of disposal for these chemicals to purchasing facilities and users of these chemicals, as well as the responsible emergency response personnel. Furthermore, consignors of hazardous chemicals must convey the above-mentioned information to the safety authorities responsible for hazardous chemical management. 

In addition, newly constructed or installed production facilities and machinery for hazardous chemicals must be equipped with an automatic control system. Equipment that involves the use of chemical production techniques and chemicals subject to major supervision, as well as serious hazard installations must have a safety instrumented system (SIS) installed to ensure operation safety. The lists of techniques and chemicals subject to major supervision have been published by the safety authorities in recent years.

Safety authorities are also required to take into consideration the safety and environmental implication of hazardous chemicals facilities when formulating land development plans. They must ensure that the proper safety distance between hazardous chemical facilities and their surrounding is maintained. Public opinions on construction projects that involve production techniques and chemicals subject to major supervision, as well as serious hazardous installations must also be taken into consideration when approving these projects.

In terms of information transparency, a "blacklist" will be published by the safety authorities in China. Specifically, companies on the blacklist will be disclosed to the public regarding their violations. This disclosure will impact the credit rating of concerned companies and, therefore, affect the premium for work-related injury insurance and production safety liability insurance of these facilities. Furthermore, a hazardous chemical registration information database will be established and maintained by various safety authorities in China, including the State Administration of Work Safety, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Information contained in this database will also be shared among these ministries. In addition, an information-sharing platform will be provided for hazardous chemical supervision. This database will collect information on the production, import, storage, use, sales, transport, and disposal of hazardous chemicals. A database will also be established for all existing hazardous chemical serious hazard installations. Companies should note that the safety authorities in China are currently exploring a tracking system for explosive and flammable substances, as well as toxic chemicals, during their entire life cycle. 

Enforcement Schedule

The Action Plan also provides a schedule for the implementation of enforcement measures, as follows:

  • Planning stage: December 2016. Safety authorities at all levels are required to develop detailed enforcement plans for their respective jurisdictions in accordance with the measures and goals as outlined under the Action Plan;
  • Implementation stage: January 2017 - October 2019. The preliminary enforcement measures will be carried out between January 2017 and March 2018; while further improvement will be made between April 2018 and October 2019 on the basis of the enforcement results achieved; and
  • Conclusion stage: November 2019. Safety authorities at all levels will report to the State Council the implementation results of the enforcement measures provided under the Action Plan by this time.

Please note that individual deadlines are also provided for each of the 40 enforcement actions. These deadlines are in line with the three above-mentioned major deadlines.
Detailed information on the "Action Plan on the Safety Control of Hazardous Chemicals" is accessible online in Chinese from the website of the State Administration of Work Safety.

Business Impact

The Action Plan does not impose any direct requirements on companies. Instead, it outlines major areas of concern for safety authorities in China and imposes deadlines for the authorities to address these issues and concerns. Stakeholders should pay close attention to the enforcement actions rolled out in the Action Plan, as they will have a major impact on facilities that produce, use, sell, transport, or dispose of hazardous chemicals in China. For instance, an improved registration system will be introduced for hazardous chemicals. Increased information transparency should also be expected. Information concerning the entire life cycle of certain hazardous chemicals might be tracked in the near future. Safety installations for hazardous chemical production facilities, such as safety instrumented systems, are also mandatory.