The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ghana Chamber of Mines are developing a policy and legal framework for the safe transportation of hazardous chemicals m the country.

The draft document will come out with guidelines to regulate the proper haulage of industrial materials that are harmful to humans when exposed.

The two organisations began a workshop in Accra yesterday to work on the document, which is also expected to harmonise and Co-ordinate other regulations in the system, incorporate a training manual for transporters as well as develop an emergency preparedness plan for mitigating accidents when they happen during the transportation of such chemicals.

Stakeholders at the workshop include the EPA, the Ghana Chamber of Mines, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, the Ghana Armed Forces and the Ghana National Fire Service.

Others are the Ghana Health Service, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Red Cross, Red Crescent Society, Ghana Private Road Transport Union, Chemical and Petroleum Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Tema Oil Refinery.

Hazardous materials include materials that have toxins, irritants, corrosives, explosives, carcinogens or other agents that can damage the lungs, skin, eyes or mucous membranes. Examples of such materials are sodium cyanide, asbestos, sodium hydroxide, cadmium metal and mercury.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ms Joyce Aryee, said best practices in product stewardship required companies to take responsibility for the manner in which the inputs in their supply chain were managed before they were stocked, adding that arriving at workable guidelines for the effective management of hazardous materials in the country was appropriate.

She enumerated three conditions which she said the state should consider and act upon to reduce the exposure of the public to dangers in the transportation and handling of hazardous materials by road.

She noted that since majority of mining companies and other heavy industries were located in the Western region, “it should make a lot of sense to route all imports for these industries through the Takoradi Port”.

She explained that the distance from the Takoradi Port was shorter than from the Tema Harbour, adding that hauling from Takoradi would help reduce the exposure of these materials to the public.

Secondly, she said “rather than transporting all our major imports such as fuel, cement and hazardous chemicals by road, we should consider haulage by rail as the norm”.

This, according to her, would help ease the potential hazards that would arise should the unfortunate happen, adding that using rail transport would also protect and extend the life of our roads.

Thirdly, she said the current procedures for importing explosives used in the mining and quarry industries demanded that explosive consignments were stored among other less hazardous materials at the ports for several days before they were cleared.

That, she said, was worrying as any mishap such as a fire could have dire consequences for the whole harbour infrastructure.

She, therefore, proposed a change in the permitting process to allow the adoption of a single import permit that would automatically allow companies to import, clear and take delivery of explosives as soon as they arrive at the port.

The Executive Director of EPA, Mr Jonathan Allotey, said between January and December 2003, seven accidents leading to the spillage of chemicals with serious health, environmental and financial consequences were reported to the EPA.

Source: Daily Graphic

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