HSE named as UK's REACH watchdog

The Health & Safety Executive will oversee the implementation of new European moves to regulate the chemical industry and the manufacturers which rely on its products in the UK.

REACH will have an impact on the chemical industry and all those who rely on its products

REACH will have an impact on the chemical industry and all those who rely on its products

The long-awaited Regulation, Evaluation & Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation is finally reaching completion in the corridors of power in Brussels and among the many things it calls for is a requirement for governments to nominate or set up an institution which will monitor and enforced compliance.

In the legal jargon this institution will be known as the Competent Authority (CA) and although it likely appointment has been an open secret for some time, the HSE was formally given the role in the UK on Tuesday.

The HSE has already set up a help desk offering advice and answering the queries of those still confused about how the regulations will affect them and their business.

Once fully operational the CA, in addition to providing the helpdesk and ensuring compliance, will evaluate substances of concern and liaise with the newly-established European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki where a database will keep track of over 30,000 chemicals used in Europe.

REACH is designed to tidy up inefficient existing legislation while providing protection for human health and the environment.

Jeff Rooker, Minister with responsibility for REACH policy, announced the appointment at a trade show in Belfast.

The Chemical Industry Association, the leading trade organisation for the sector in the UK, said it welcomed the news as it provided more of the certainty which business crave.

"We are pleased to see confirmation of a clear lead body as the UK Competent Authority," said its chief executive, Steve Elliott.

"That said a key challenge for the HSE will be to ensure that we have fully joined up implementation and enforcement of the regulation. This means the need for close cooperation with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency, devolved administrations and other relevant government departments.

"Industry too must look to play its part to deliver an effective and
efficient REACH. With that in mind CIA's REACHReady will seek to work
closely with HSE's helpdesk to ensure that UK companies are best prepared for this milestone regulation."

Meanwhile, those in favour of a tougher REACH won the latest round in the long battle to get the regulations onto the statute books, with Green and Liberal MEPs uniting behind socialist rapporteur Guiddo Sacconi when the EC's environment committee met this week to vote on his recommended revisions to the latest version of the chemicals laws (see related story).

The HSE help desk can be contacted on 0845 4089575 or via email at ukreachca@hse.gsi.gov.uk

Sam Bond



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