Resource Management

SPECIAL SECTION/RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: The Next Stage of Compliance

January 1, 2012
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Compliance with REACH regulation requires companies to have up-to-date information on chemical substances.



REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals) is the European Union (EU) regulation that focuses on the safe use and distribution of chemicals. The regulation came into force in June 2007 and is arguably one of the most complex and far-reaching pieces of legislation to impact chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and downstream users of chemicals worldwide.

The regulations affect companies of all sizes-regardless of where they are based in the world-as REACH applies to any company that imports to or manufactures in the EU. To comply with REACH, organizations are now responsible for registering chemicals and ensuring the delivery of material safety data sheets (MSDS, now known simply as safety data sheets, or SDS) and associated documentation to their customers. Companies are also responsible for keeping these documents, and their customers, up to date in the event of any changes or clarifications.

Failure to comply with these regulations will not only place a business at risk, it may jeopardize health and safety and waste all of the hard work that has gone into achieving REACH compliance.

Recent Developments

According to Geert Dancet, executive director of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the first phase of REACH compliance was completed successfully on November 30, 2010. This phase involved the registration of widely used chemicals, particularly those that are hazardous, with the ECHA. Beginning December 1, 2010, all unregistered manufacturers and importers of over 1000 tons/year were considered to be operating illegally.

A year has passed and the industry has shifted its focus firmly to the next REACH landmark, which is 2013 REACH registration. At the European Commission’s REACH Registration Conference in September 2011, the “REACH 2013 – ACT Now!” campaign was launched by ECHA. Manufacturers, importers and downstream users of chemicals not yet complying with the REACH regulations were urged to start preparing now for the deadline of May 31, 2013, when all substances manufactured or imported in the EU above 100 metric tons a year must be registered under REACH. Organizations must also remain aware of the proposed new U.S. legislation, similar to REACH, that is under consideration for shipments into the U.S. market.

SDS Delivery

After registration, compliance involves the production and delivery of the new SDSs, which are needed at every stage of the supply chain. REACH requires big changes for EU chemical importers in the way they are required to deliver, receive and manage SDSs. In a high-volume industry that has constant pressure on margins, the new regulations present manufacturers, importers, aggregators and even retailers with a tough administrative challenge that could prove to be incredibly costly.

What is already clear is that traditional methods of delivering documents are not accurate, cost-effective or robust enough to meet the REACH compliance standards. Each traditional method of delivering documents has shortcomings; for example:
  • Email does not guarantee or record proof of delivery without significant time, effort and cost; this type of delivery obviously does not physically replace old, out-of date-versions of an SDS.
  • Regular mail has the same problems as emails, adding the additional costs and time associated with stationery, postage, and administration.
  • Placing documents onto a website will not suffice, as this provides no proactive delivery and is already rejected by REACH.
In addition, these methods will not help with the intent of REACH. Customers will not be alerted to any changes in the SDSs, multiple recipients cannot be easily managed, and there are no standards in terms of the media on which the SDS is held-making easy and consistent access difficult. All of this could result in either significant additional costs for suppliers or the possibility of errors, leading to non-compliance with the regulations.

Possible Solutions

As this next stage of REACH begins, the issues companies in the industry face are significant. How should companies fully comply with the legislation in respect of delivery and receipt of SDSs? How do they maintain their operations and ensure consistent use of current information across all operational areas? How do they effectively audit internal and external delivery, receipt and access of critical information by customers? Most importantly, how do they address possible legal action should the need arise?

REACH Delivery is a new industry-wide SDS delivery service that helps companies eradicate administration headaches concerning the delivery of SDSs and other documents. This secure online service enables the electronic delivery, receipt, control, update, audit and tracking of SDSs in line with REACH regulations. The service automates the entire SDS delivery process, including monitoring, tracking and reporting on all documents that are sent to customers. It retains a delivery status for documents sent and alerts users only when they need to follow up. Any document updates are automatically identified, and the new SDSs replace the previously sent versions. Customers and staff will receive alerts about the new SDS to ensure they are always up to date.

Documents from all of a company’s suppliers are all stored in a single electronic database, providing users a single consistent point of access for the latest version of a SDS. Any documents that a user chooses to store locally on their PC are also automatically kept up to date, so it is possible to work on- or offline. The service is intended to be simple to access and operate, and charges are on a pay-as-you-use basis.

REACH compliance is a hugely complex issue for companies that import or distribute substances. Automating and guaranteeing the safe delivery of SDSs helps ease the complexity, reduce the costs, and improve health and safety within the industry.

Companies have invested time and effort into getting the content of the SDS/MSDS right. It is just as important to ensure they are delivering the documents in line with the new regulations to ensure that they remain in compliance with REACH legislation.

For more information, visit www.reachdelivery.com.

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