Late last year the first phase of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) compliance was completed successfully, meaning that EU chemical manufacturers will have breathed a collective sigh of relief. However, as Malcolm Carroll, CEO of Reach Delivery explains, there are other important factors to consider

While few could deny the importance of the REACH regulation in promoting and ensuring the safe use of chemicals, many would agree that it is one of the most complex pieces of legislation to impact importers of chemicals to and within the EU. Therefore, achieving registration successfully would not just have been a major milestone, but also the accumulation of many months of hard work.

However, even with registration over, there is no time to relax. There are other important considerations and changes under REACH that will impact these companies and these need to be addressed now. One major consideration is the new rules and changes involving the delivery of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to customers in Europe.

All change

The big change is that under REACH, any company involved in importing and distributing chemicals to and within the EU will need to ensure the direct delivery of SDS and associated documentation to their customers. They will also be responsible for keeping these documents, and their customers, up to date in the event of any changes or clarifications. Companies need to ensure they know these changes are required and that they adhere to them, as failure to act upon them may place their business at risk of non-compliance.

Achieving compliance in this area is a major administrative challenge and could also prove incredibly costly, and because SAS are needed at every stage of the supply chain, this issue will impact thousands of companies.

It is clear that new methods of delivering SDS and associated documents will be required, as traditional methods will prove unacceptable, expensive and they will not be robust enough to meet the REACH compliance requirements.

REACH compliance insists SDS must be supplied directly to the customer so there are some obvious problems with current working practices in this area.

If we look at each in turn, there are some very real challenges. E-mail does not guarantee or record proof of delivery without significant time, effort and cost, and obviously does not physically replace old, out of date versions of an SDS. Post has the same problems as e-mails, adding further costs and time with stationary, postage and administration. And, placing documents onto a website simply will not suffice as it provides no proactive delivery and is already rejected by REACH.

Nor will existing methods help with the intent of REACH, as customers will not be alerted to any changes in the SDS, multiple recipients are not 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 results in either significant additional costs for suppliers or the possibility of errors leading to non-compliance with the regulations.

Question time

With this multitude of issues companies should be asking themselves a series of questions. How do they fully comply with the legislation in respect of the delivery and receipt of SDS? How do they maintain their operations and ensure only the use of current information, and provide consistency across all operational areas? How do they effectively audit, internally and externally, and prove the delivery, receipt and access of critical information by customers? And, how do they address possible legal action should it arise?

It has become clear recently that many companies now need to look at this aspect of REACH legislation. This year is starting to see a high number of revised SAS entering the supply chain and keeping track of what has been sent to which customer and ensuring delivery is bringing new challenges. Companies are seeking ways to establish both a method of complying with legislation in communicating with their customers and an effective approach to their internal operations in respect of SDS.

Whats on offer?

REACH Delivery is a new industry wide SDS delivery service aimed at alleviating the headaches around REACH compliance concerning the electronic delivery, receipt, control, update, audit and tracking of SDS in line with the regulations.

REACH Delivery automates the entire delivery process, monitoring, tracking and reporting on all documents sent to customers. It retains a delivery status for documents sent, alerting users only when they need to follow-up. Any document updates are automatically identified and the new SDS replaces any versions previously sent, alerting customers and staff to it.

Documents from all of a companys suppliers are all stored in an electronic database, allowing users a single consistent point of access for the latest version of a SDS. Any documents that a user chooses to store locally on his PC are also automatically kept up to date, so that it is possible to work online or offline.

In addition to the fact that REACH affects companies throughout the world, similar legislation is now being considered in other countries, most significantly in the US. As such, REACH Delivery has been designed to meet the requirements of new international legislation as and when it is required.

There is no doubt that REACH compliance is a hugely complex issue for companies around the world but automating and guaranteeing the safe delivery of SDS will ease the complexity and ensure one key element of compliance is addressed. After all the hard work that has gone into registration, it doesnt make sense for companies to now gamble with their compliance.