ECHA finds widespread REACH failures

5th September 2013

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Inspections by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) found that more than two-thirds of firms using chemicals subject to REACH were not compliant

Downstream users of chemicals were the focus of the second ECHA project examining REACH enforcement, and, of the 1,181 firms visited by the agency between May 2011 and March 2012, 67% had not met the requirements of the REACH Regulation (EC 1907/2006) and the CLP Regulation (EC 1272/2008) – which covers the classification, labeling and packaging of chemicals.

Downstream users are companies that use chemicals to formulate new substances or to create metals, for example, and the most common failings were related to the registration and notification requirements demanded by REACH. The ECHA found, for example, that 28% of firms formulating mixtures were unaware of the registration status of the substances they were using.

The agency also reports that some firms had inadequate risk-management measures in place, while others did not provide customers with sufficient information on hazardous chemicals.

The inspections also highlighted a significant problem with the quality of safety data sheets (SDS), which are mandatory and describe the hazards presented by a chemical as well as provide information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of accident.

Of the 4,500 SDSs examined by the agency, more than half (52%) were deficient in some way. Common failings related to the information provided on potential hazards, the composition of substances and exposure controls. Companies often had difficulties in sourcing SDSs in their national language, says the ECHA.

While the latest data reveal that more firms had SDSs in place compared to 2009-11, when the agency carried out its first enforcement project – 97% compared with 87% – the ECHA concluded that the quality of SDSs confirm that more must be done to help firms understand the requirements of REACH.

“Awareness and knowledge on REACH among smaller downstream user companies is sometimes very low or even non-existent. This is a matter of concern and should be monitored,” states the findings.

The agency calls on the chemicals industry to pay more attention to how the communicate information on hazardous chemicals to suppliers, and to do more to help downstream users understand REACH. It also recommends that businesses affected by the Regulation consider implementing document management systems to help ensure compliance.

Susanne Baker, senior climate and environment policy adviser at EEF, said the projects findings were to be expected.

“EEF has consistently highlighted to the authorities low levels of awareness of REACH among downstream users: many simply are unaware that REACH impacts on their business,” she commented. “A survey of our members last year showed 20% of manufacturers didn't think REACH was applicable to them, a further 30% said it wasn’t important to their business.

“The reality is that all professional users of chemicals, whether they are used individually, in mixtures or even in products, are impacted by REACH, potentially in a profound way.”

Baker called on the regulators to do more to raise awareness of the impacts of REACH.

“ECHA has a key role here along with the European Commission to coordinate efforts across the EU,” she said.

The second REACH enforcement project inspected firms across the 26 EU states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Of the 1,181 firms inspected, just 20 were in the UK.


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