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 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 up to date in the event of any changes or clarifications.

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 1,000 tons/year were considered to be operating illegally.

With registration complete, it is time for organizations to consider some of the additional requirements of REACH, including the regulations surrounding the delivery of SDSs to customers in Europe. 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.

The goal of REACH is to improve the available information about chemical substances, including details regarding how they should be used and what risks they pose. REACH focuses on ways to improve the safety of workers and the public, protect the environment, reduce the risk of chemical contamination, and ensure a competitive and innovative chemical industry. Greater responsibility now lies with chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and downstream users who will need to carefully manage the chemical risks and provide detailed safety information. For many companies, this is a big challenge.

SDS Delivery

The next phase of compliance concerns 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 (like adhesives and sealants), 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 aimed at alleviating the compliance headaches concerning 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. It is free to use for anyone who receives an SDS, with an optional “pay as you send” area for users who need to send SDSs or other documents externally. After a simple registration process, users can immediately and securely send the latest SDSs to their customers’ desktops and receive proof of delivery.

The service automates the entire sending process, including monitoring, tracking and reporting on all documents sent to customers. It also retains a delivery status for documents sent and alerts users only when they need to follow up, which enables them to get on with their business. Any document updates are automatically identified by REACH Delivery, 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 suppliers are all stored in a single electronic database, thereby allowing users to maintain a single consistent point of access for the latest version of a SDS. Documents can also be stored locally (on your own PC) and are automatically kept up to date so you can work on- or offline.

The flexibility and global nature of REACH Delivery is intended to meet the requirements of proposed new U.S. legislation, when required. In the meantime, in addition to being able to distribute the SDSs to EU customers, U.S. REACH Delivery users benefit by being able to distribute the sheets throughout their own company free of charge, which ensures that the latest SDSs are being used across their organization.

The system is designed to make SDS compliance simple and cost effective for every organization in the supply chain. REACH legislation aims to improve health and safety surrounding the use of chemicals-certainly a shared goal for everyone in the industry. REACH Delivery eradicates the headaches caused by the need to securely send and receive SDSs; the system provides a simple and effective method for chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and downstream users in the U.S. and elsewhere to meet the challenges of REACH compliance.

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