No substance beyond REACH

This summer sees the introduction of EU legislation to control dangerous substances not covered under existing hazardous chemical laws. Caroline Chilton explains the implications

Since 1 June, all suppliers in the European Union are required to comply with a raft of substance restrictions under the Registration, Evaluaton, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. The restrictions apply every time an article is supplied (including components, sub-assemblies and finish equipment) and enforcement action can be taken at any point in the supply chain. The substance restrictions also apply to distributors who resell components and sub-assemblies, and retailers who resell finished equipment.

The 53 substance restrictions are detailed in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation (as amended) and cover a wide range of applications. In addition to substances that are already restricted under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, there are another 19 REACH substance restrictions that can be relevant to electrical and electronic equipment and hardware products.

More substances will be added to the list by the European Chemicals Agency and EU member states.

However, the list of REACH restricted substances will develop more slowly than the REACH Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern, which may grow by up to 25 substances a year, according to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Substances on the Candidate List require declaration if the component, sub-assembly or finished equipment contains more than 0.1% w/w of that substance.

REACH enforcement is carried out through member state regulations and is co-ordinated across Europe by the ECHA Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement. In France, companies that do not comply with the REACH substance restrictions face a maximum prison sentence of two years or a maximum fine of E75,000. In the UK, non-compliant companies face a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of a fine (unlimited) or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

The enforcement action taken by the Netherlands against Sony in 2001 under the old Marketing and Use Directive illustrates the level of enforcement that may be applied for non-compliance with the REACH restrictions. In May 2001, a competitor informed the Dutch customs that cables in Sony PlayStations contained 20 times the levels of cadmium permitted in Dutch regulations implementing the Marketing and Use Directive.

Annex XVII of REACH replaces the Marketing and Use Directive and specifically prohibits the use of cadmium in concentrations >0.01% in PVC used for insulation for electrical wiring. Dutch customs seized 1.3 million PlayStation units and 800,000 accessories with a market value of $162M. Replacing the cables and safety validation to enable these units to be sold in the Netherlands cost Sony $110M. The business impact of lost sales of PlayStations in the Netherlands during this period has not been quantified.

The number of OEMs choosing to use the web database to manage REACH and RoHS declarations from their suppliers, is increasingly steadily. This centralised industry-wide web database is shared by suppliers and manufacturers across the supply chain. Suppliers pay E300 a year to upload declaration data for the part numbers they supply; manufacturers gain free access to download declaration data for supplier part numbers they buy to manufacture their product, provided they send a letter to their suppliers asking them to join the system.

Suppliers follow expert guidance to create their substances declarations and the system provides electronic signatures that are compliant with US regulations so that manufacturers can rely on the supplier’s electronic records as being equivalent to paper records with handwritten signatures. The latest upgrade to BOMcheck enables customer part numbers to be mapped against supplier part numbers. The customer part numbers are automatically updated if the supplier changes the status of the part numbers. Another new function enables a manufacturer to create a declaration for an assembly that comprises a list of part numbers from different suppliers.

The compliance status of the assembly is automatically updated if the status of any of the supplier part numbers changes.

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