REACH — Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
Information on the risks posed by substances and how they should be handled must be provided throughout the supply chain by manufacturers and suppliers.
REACH also requires companies or individuals who use a chemical substance, either on its own or in a mixture, in the course of their industrial or professional activities to pass on information to manufacturers and suppliers of chemicals or to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). These companies are called downstream users. Downstream users have a key role to play in advancing the safe use of chemicals by implementing safe use at their own site and communicating relevant information to both their suppliers and their customers.
The regulation is also directly linked to the Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP) that establishes the hazard and precautionary statements and pictograms that are an important source of information for workplace protection.
- DG Environment pages on REACH
- DG Growth pages on REACH
- European Chemicals Agency pages on REACH
- National REACH Helpdesks
- ETUI pages on chemicals and REACH
- CEFIC pages on chemicals and REACH
Links to workplace legislation
Under workplace legislation, it is the employer’s duty to carry out a risk assessment and ensure that the workers are protected and provided with information, guidance and training on the safe use of chemicals in the workplace, based on information derived from the labels and the safety data sheet. The employer also has the right to demand further information from the supplier.
REACH continuously accumulates data on health and safety risks from the use of chemical substances. The registrant (the manufacturer or the importer), who has to provide this data to the ECHA, also has to communicate this information to the downstream user, by providing an extended safety data sheet with exposure scenarios containing operational conditions and risk management measures for safe use, meant to facilitate the training of workers and the risk assessment procedure. At the same time, the registrant has the right to be informed by the downstream users on the relevance of the proposed risk management measures, in particular if they are inappropriate.
REACH requires the registration of all chemical substances that are manufactured or imported into the EU in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year.
Most companies use chemicals, sometimes even without realising it, therefore you need to check your obligations if you handle any chemicals, for example paints, glues or cleaning products, in your industrial or professional activity. You might have some responsibilities under REACH. If your company is using chemicals in the workplace, check with your employer whether:
- The chemical substances you use have been registered or are intended for registration. This information is provided on ECHA’s website.
- Your uses are covered by up-to-date safety data sheets.
- The risk management measures as described in the safety data sheets and exposure scenarios have been considered in the risk assessment to ensure the safe use of the chemical.
- Workers or their representatives have been consulted and informed about the workplace risk assessment.
Manufacturers and importers submit information to ECHA on the hazard properties of the substance, on the classification and labelling, and the assessment of the potential risk presented by the substances. They need to work together with other companies that are registering the same substance. Missing data should be generated and safety data sheets updated.
ECHA's 'Information on Chemicals' section provides access to centralised databases open to the public and to the authorities (ECHA, European Commission, Member State Competent Authorities and Enforcement).
REACH, entered into force in on 1 June 2007 to streamline and improve the former legislative framework for chemicals of the EU.
It set out three registration phases, ending 30 November 2010, 30 May 2013 and 30 May 2018.
ECHA and the Member States evaluate the information submitted by companies to examine the quality of the registration dossiers and the testing proposals, and to clarify if a given substance constitutes a risk to human health or the environment. For a selected number of substances, a designated Member State carries out a more in-depth evaluation. Chemical substances that are already regulated by other legislations, such as medicines or radioactive substances, are partially or completely exempted from REACH requirements.
Authorisation and restriction
Under REACH hazardous substances can be banned if their risks are unmanageable. They can also decide to restrict a use or make it subject to a prior authorisation.
A Member State, or ECHA (on request of the European Commission), can propose restrictions. Two scientific committees evaluate and ECHA forwards their opinions to the European Commission which proposes a new restriction or a revision of an existing restriction to be adopted.
A Member State, or ECHA (on request of the Commission), may propose a substance to be identified as a substance of very high concern (SVHC), that may become subject to authorisation. If an SVHC is placed on the Authorisation list, companies may send an application to ECHA requesting the authorisation for specified uses, but may not use it otherwise. Carcinogens, reprotoxic substances and mutagens, as well as respiratory sensitisers qualify as SVHCs, but other substances may also be proposed.
In the long run, the most hazardous substances should be substituted with less dangerous ones. Substitution and elimination is also the first measure to be applied when protecting workers. Make sure you check your national legislation regarding specific measures to be taken, bans and restrictions on use.
REACH also created the ECHA, which has a central co-ordination and implementation role in the overall process.
National helpdesks support the agency and provide guidance and information. They often ensure coordination with national OSH authorities.