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Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH)

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The UK manufacturers’ organization - EEF - has called on Britain’s manufacturers to get to grips with the requirements of the European Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances - "Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals" - or "REACH" for short.

REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use.

It entered into force on 1 June 2007 with implementation via staggered deadlines.

But a recent survey shows that awareness of the implications for manufacturers of the REACH regulations, especially amongst smaller companies, remains worryingly low.

REACH is gradually restricting the use of hazardous chemicals, including substances which have been commonly used in manufacturing processes for many years under controlled conditions.

This has major implications for all companies from requirements for worker safety, to controls on how substances are used, through to the need to potentially modify processes and substitute other materials.

There are also major implications for companies in the supply chain who must be in a position to advise their customers if such substances are present in the products they sell.

Where there is a strong enough argument for continued use of a banned substance, companies can apply to the European Commission to continue to use it.

The first such deadline is just a month away.

Furthermore, companies have just six months to make themselves aware of the implications of the next major deadline for registration of chemicals in June 2013.

Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence with the possibility of unlimited fines and, up to two years in prison.

In response, EEF is calling on government to do more to raise awareness of the implications of REACH on businesses.

It is also calling for more user friendly guidance and a clearer understanding of when the Commission is likely to give permission for continued use of banned substances.

For many companies there is the very real risk of lost business if they are unable to advise their suppliers whether their products contain certain materials and, where they are, how their use is being monitored.

Furthermore, if companies don’t plan for substance bans, it could prevent production entirely.

There are currently 21 substances set for bans under the Regulation.

The first suite of bans takes place from February 2015.

Applications to continue to use these substances must be submitted from February or August this year if companies want to avoid business continuity issues.

In December the Commission announced a further suite of substances that will be banned, subject to clearance in the European Parliament.

More bans are expected and there are currently 153 substances on the list.

Any company using any of the substances in quantities greater than 0.1% w/w in the products they sell are required to notify their business customers to ensure its safe handling.

If companies place that substance on the market in quantities greater than a tonne they are also obliged to notify the European Chemicals Agency.

On the 1 June 2013, companies that place substances on the market in quantities between 1,000 and 100 tonnes a year are required to register them.

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