REACH Basics Summary for Non-Eu companies

REACH, the European Union (EU) regulation for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals, which entered into force on 1 June 2007, has one key central aim: to protect human health and the environment from the risks arising from the use of chemicals.

This simple and admirable goal has proved somewhat difficult to achieve. Evolving from a European Commission draft with inputs from industry, member states, the European Parliament and environmental organisations, REACH has become one of the most complex and far-reaching pieces of regulation ever to originate from Brussels – the seat of European Union government. REACH is EU legislation and only applies to companies that are based within the EU and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area, EEA). However, if you export either chemical substances or finished goods to the EU your supply chain is affected. You will need, therefore, to consider and respond to REACH

Perhaps, given the fundamental nature of chemicals as the building blocks of our modern world and vital to everyday life, this should not surprise us.

REACH intends to achieve its goal by requiring EU-based businesses to fully ascertain the risks posed by the use of chemicals. For certain dangerous substances this means that a company will need to define in detail exactly how to safely use a chemical.

Another of REACH’s mechanisms is an authorisation process for substances identified as being of very high concern to human health or the environment. Authorisation means the hazardous chemical can only be used in ways that are authorised by the European Commission. Any authorised substance is also considered a candidate for substitution with “safer” alternatives. Essentially Authorisation will remove certain chemicals from the EU market.

But how do we know which chemicals may require authorisation now or in the future? Much is known about certain substances but for many there are information shortfalls, which prevent a suitable risk assessment. That’s where the REACH registration process comes in.

REACH Registration

For many firms REACH registration will be the most costly and time-consuming part of compliance. Generally, anyone that makes or imports a chemical into the EU above one tonne per year will need to register it with a REACH central authority, the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA (there are exemptions to REACH Registration and our REACHScope tool can help identify them). Registration involves producing a dossier of information in collaboration with other manufacturers or importers. The obligations are essentially the same for manufacturers and importers (in other words your EU-based customers) of a substance.

We've developed exclusive and easy to understand information for Manufacturers and Importers, telling them what they need to do to register for REACH. And what's more, it's free to access – Click Here!

If you are based outside the EU, even if you are exporting to the EU, you are not able to register substances under REACH (unless you have an EU-based subsidiary). But there is a way to get involved and stay in control if you produce chemicals or articles – you can appoint an Only Representative.

Only Representatives

Only representatives are EU-based legal entities that are considered “competent” to carry out the REACH registration process on behalf of companies based outside the EU who manufacture chemical substances, formulate products or produce articles. The alternative is for your customers, as an importers, to each undertake the registration process for the products they are purchasing from you – and it is likely to be costly for them to do so.

We suggest that any company based outside the EU should be considering whether to appoint an only representative. And our Matchmaker service can help you identify one that's right for you. If you appoint an Only Representative any company you supply to will be considered a downstream user…

Downstream users of chemicals

Companies in the EU that use a chemical, for example, to make a product, to clean a floor, to lubricate a machine, to print on their packaging (etc etc...) have to make sure that their use of a chemical is listed within the dossier. If this sounds like you, you are a “downstream user” and if your use of a chemical isn’t part of the registration, then it's against the law to use it! Non-EU suppliers engaging in registration, either via an Only Representative or providing assistance to their importing EU customers, are likely to find their downstream customers asking questions about REACH and requesting assurances of compliance, directly or via their distributor.

We've developed a list of the actions that downstream users can take now – Click here to go to the web page and feel free to forward the link to your friends and colleagues, customers and suppliers!

In conclusion...

So in practice then, everyone in the EU that manufactures a product, trades or uses a chemical is likely to be affected to some degree; as a non-EU supplier, for your customers importing a chemical substance into the EU, REACH is likely to be one of the biggest programmes of work it will have to undertake over the next 11 years. Even though you as a non-EU company are not affected directly, your supply chains will expect your support.

REACH comes at a considerable cost, the most accepted overall price tag is €6 billion but REACHReady thinks this is an underestimate! REACH is seen as industry’s responsibility and industry, therefore, has to foot the bill.

Worried? – No need to be, REACHReady is here to help and those ready first will be in a better position to compete.

If you think REACH applies to you then the clock is ticking. Why not "Join for free" to access exclusive information that will help get you started.

In addition to providing tools and personal technical support, we can help you develop management strategies that save you time, trouble and money.

Become a REACHReady member - sign up now. Call us on +44 (0) 20 7901 1444 for more information. 

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