REACH is a concern for us all

A Byzantine piece of legislation coming out of the EU with the aim of monitoring the use of chemicals and ensuring public and environmental safety will impact on everyone, not just the chemical industry.

The Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) regulations have the dubious honour of being the most complex, and perhaps most controversial, piece of legislation ever produced by the EU and it comes into force later this year.

A spin-off of the trade group the Chemical Industries Association, REACHReady provides information to businesses about how the legislation will affect them.

Steffen Erler, technical manager for the company, will be speaking about how businesses can make the most of the regulations at SustainabilityLive! trade show at the NEC next week.

"People use chemicals without realising it," he told edie.

"There's a sort of misconception that this only applies to the chemical industry but we're looking at the wider impact. At the end of the day, it's important for any company that uses chemicals.

"And every business is using chemicals in some way and this regulation applies to them. It's not just about manufacturing, it's about the supply chain and communicating upsteam."

Everything from the office photocopier to cleaning products uses chemicals, he said, and even the even the most ubiquitous of substances, like pen ink, would need to be extensively analysed, catalogued and registered.

Any company importing such chemicals or using more than one tonne of a particular chemical a year has obligations under REACH, said Mr Erler.

"So far there hasn't been sufficient communication or awareness about how this affects us all," he said.

"This is the most complex piece of environmental legislation written in Europe - to get your head around it all would take decades but it comes into force this year, with action being taken next year. It covers thousands of substances in millions of products.

"It's a massive administrative hurdle but if we can wade through the paperwork it might be better day for everyone."

REACH's sheer complexity means many organisations have opted for the ostrich approach and buried their head in the sand.

"People think somebody else is going to have to do it for them but that's not going to happen by itself," said Mr Erler.

"What we do is break it down for them into a few simple steps to make sure that either you're doing it or someone higher up the supply chain is going to be taking on the responsibility."

The REACHReady seminar on Tuesday, May 1 at the ET & ES shows aims to provide a whistle stop tour of the legislation and how delegates can take the headache out of compliance.

"They can learn about the most complex and controversial piece of EU legislation ever written," said Mr Erler.

"They can learn what, as a business, they have to be aware of and what they need to do to ensure their compliance. If the inspector comes knocking at your door, not knowing is rarely a sufficient defence."

Sam Bond

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