New research from EEF, the manufactures’ organisation, reveals that awareness of the implications of REACH regulations for chemical use, especially among smaller companies, remains low.

Failure to comply could result in unlimited fines or even imprisonment and the EEF has called on the Government to press home the implications of non-compliance.

The EEF found that 20% of companies still believe REACH is not applicable to them while a further 30% say it isn’t important to their business.

Just under a third of companies with turnover below £2m a year are unaware of how they will be affected. This compares to 72% of large companies and 83% medium sized who are monitoring developments.

The regulations restrict the use of hazardous chemicals in certain areas and implement widespread bans, including on substances which have been commonly used in manufacturing processes for many years under controlled conditions.

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.

Initial estimates suggest REACH will cost businesses around €2bn, whilst the cost for large companies to apply for continued use of a substance is at least €50,000 sometimes rising to as much as €200,000.

EEF head of climate & environment Gareth Stace said:

“REACH continues to be the ‘elephant in the room’ for many companies who are either unaware of the implications or, still believe it is a chemicals only issue.

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

He added that if companies did not plan for substance bans, it could prevent production entirely.

There are currently 21 substances set for bans under the legislation. The first suite of bans takes place from February 2015 and applications to continue to use these substances must be submitted from February or August this year.

Conor McGlone

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