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Deadly tanker blast in Sierra Leone recalls need to improve safety: UN instruments reduce risks

Truck dangerous good accident in Sierra Leone

Close to 100 people are reported to have died from a blast following a crash between a tanker and a truck in a busy commercial district of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

UNECE stands in solidarity with the people of Sierra Leone and is ready to support all countries to implement proven United Nations instruments to prevent such accidents from occurring and to reduce the severity of their consequences.

The Agreement concerning the International Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) is a tried and tested United Nations instrument that for over 50 years has helped ensure the safe transport of hazardous substances. Incidents involving ADR vehicles carrying dangerous goods often result in no or minimum spillage, no or few people injured and even in many cases no significant damage to the cargo, people or the environment. On the contrary, accidents involving vehicles not complying with ADR requirements often have catastrophic consequences.

Far too many accidents involving the transport of dangerous goods still occur in countries all around the world. Recent incidents among the dozens recorded every month include the 2019 explosions of an overturned petrol tanker in Niamey, Niger, that killed 58 people, and tanker explosion in Yangchen, China, responsible for 68 deaths, or the 2017 fuel tanker blast in Pakistan that claimed over 200 lives.

ADR is one of the eight key UN road safety legal instruments. It has been open to accession by all United Nations Member States since its entry into force in 1968.

In 2019, the “European” adjective in the title of the agreement was removed, to facilitate adoption by parliaments and legislative bodies worldwide. ADR is already used in over 50 countries around the world. However, in Africa, only Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria are contracting Parties to ADR.

UN General Assembly resolutions over the years have consistently encouraged UN Member States to accede to all of the UN road safety legal instruments, and beyond accession, to implement and apply their provisions or safety regulations.

Mrs. Ariane Roumier, Chair of the Working Party on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (WP.15) meeting taking place in Geneva this week (8-12 November) presented condolences from the Working Party to the families of the victims.

The Chair invited the authorities of Sierra Leone to present the results of the investigation of the accident once concluded to WP.15.

ADR offers a key practical tool that covers the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous goods and the construction and equipment of the vehicles carrying them, including detailed training provisions of personnel involved in the transport operations of dangerous goods, for instance, drivers, vehicle crew and safety advisers. ADR helps to ensure safe transport – within countries and across borders – of a wide range of hazardous products including petroleum products, gases, chemicals, agrochemicals and fertilizers.

Countries: Sierra Leone

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