Risk communication and public participation are considered in the context of the forthcoming requirements of the ‘Seveso II' Directive. The discussion draws substantially on the findings of a research project which has investigated public perceptions of the risks from major accident hazards in seven communities in the UK. Implications for the Directive's requirements on emergency information provision, public access to safety reports and consultation on emergency plans are considered. Our conclusions stress the need for risk communication to be seen as a long term and ongoing process, involving active listening to public reasoning about risk and a sensitivity to the context in which communication is taking place. In meeting both needs and rights to information and encouraging and enabling public participation, we conclude that the Directive should contribute in some degree to an improved environment for dialogue and the building of trust.