IOSH magazine recently ran a webinar on chemical safety legislation post-Brexit. Dangerous goods expert Sarah Ingle of EcoOnline provided a solid foundation of UK chemical safety legislation and the key legislative changes for downstream users of substances. Here she answers your key questions.
Do the retained regulations apply to the UK as a whole, or just to Great Britain?
Sarah: The new UK REACH provides the regulatory framework for chemicals in Great Britain. If your company is based in NI then EU REACH as well as EU CLP, BPR, PIC will still apply to you. This means that you will continue to have access to the majority of ECHA database system, but you will also have to comply with some aspects of the new UK systems that have been implemented. Transfers of chemicals from GB into NI are considered as imports into the EU and therefore companies in NI bringing in chemicals from GB are considered importers. If you are based in GB and are buying chemicals from NI, a new notification system has been developed: Northern Ireland Notifications. This allows for ease of trade between GB and NI. There are some criteria that need to be met before you can use this.
Will the UK have a separate SVHC list?
Sarah: Yes. The Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) list that was present on the ECHA website on 31 December 2020 was copied directly over to the UK SVHC list. It’s now up to the UK government to include new substances to this list going forward. So at this time, it's exactly the same as within the EU, but it will start to deviate dependent on what the UK government decides it wants to classify as a substance of very high concern moving forward: it can decide to align with the EU or it can decide to choose specific chemicals to add into it based on specific criteria that it outlines.
If we buy chemicals from a UK supplier, and the supplier uses an overseas source, are they still classed as a downstream user?
Sarah: You are classed as a downstream user, but your supplier will be an importer. The majority of the obligations will lie with the supplier. They will have to review the requirements to determine what their obligations are as an importer. There are some transitional timelines in place for implementing these new legislative requirements. If you're buying from a UK company, then you have a role as a downstream user.
As a downstream user receiving goods from a parent company in Europe, do we need to notify local poison centres under CLP?
Sarah: Previously, the legislation stated that if you want to import the substance into the UK, you would have to notify the local poison centre. The current scheme of data collection from the chemical industry is voluntary however I would recommend doing so anyway if your product is classified as a health hazard, because it is an important aspect of poison control. If you are selling products to consumers and a child accidentally came in contact with it, they could just contact the poison centre, and they would have information on how to deal with that particularly hazardous chemical. There is no cost associated with this process.
What about chemicals that are not classified? For example, salt or distilled water – what are the obligations?
Sarah: There are exemptions in place for non-hazardous products under the REACH Regulation, for example foodstuffs or cosmetic products. There also are exemptions for products that are naturally found in the environment. Products such as distilled water do not have to be registered, as it has no hazards associated with it. The REACH Regulations contain a list of all substances that are exempt.
What about the one-tonne threshold for REACH?
Sarah: If you import any substance in quantities greater than one tonne per year you must register the substance. If you don't know how much you're going to import that year, take the average of the previous three years if your processes haven't changed to determine whether do you think you're going to go above the one tonne threshold. You must register before you import the one tonne and not afterwards; it can't be done retrospectively.
If you have imported 800kgs of a particular chemical and you still think you need to import more, see if you can find a supplier in the UK for the last quantity to make sure it doesn't go above the threshold. Try and source multiple suppliers for this process. Costs obviously have an effect on what supplier you choose but it is important to have a secondary supplier within the UK that you can call on if you think you're going to go above the one tonne threshold. It will work out cheaper than having to register your substance, which can be quite a costly exercise. There are some transitional timelines in place for this process.
Are schools regarded as downstream users?
Sarah: Any organisation that buys chemicals for their own use would be considered downstream or end-users and therefore would have to comply with the relevant aspects of the regulations.
Do you think that the UK REACH will reclassify diesel back to not being a Class 3 flammable?
Sarah: I do not believe there will be any immediate changes with regards to classification of substances. This is to facilitate a smooth transition period and continued trade with the EU.
Being a downstream user of chemicals, should we expect our supplier to carry out its pre-checks with legislation allowing ourselves to use the chemical with confidence?
Sarah: If your supplier is based within GB then it will be their responsibility to check to ensure registrations etc have been completed. However, you still have some responsibilities as a downstream user, for example reviewing the SDS and implementing control measures.
You said there might be changes to SDSs and perhaps some classifications, when will we know this for definite?
Sarah: The current EU REACH SDS format and content remain valid under UK REACH. Any changes that may occur will be further down the line. There is no immediate concern with changing SDSs.
We are a downstream user, receiving goods from our parent company in Europe. Under CLP, do we need to notify local poison centres?
Sarah: The current scheme of data collection from the chemical industry in GB is voluntary. You do not have to notify unless you want to have the information on your SDS.
Is the content of a specific MSDS designated under REACH?
Sarah: The REACH Regulation outlines the format of the SDS (previously named MSDS) and what needs to go into each section. The specific text in each section will differ depending on the hazards and characteristics of the chemical.
Where does the SCIP legislation fit into this change?
Sarah: The SCIP is a European database for Substances of Very High Concern under the Water Framework Directive. GB has considered implementing a similar database but this has not yet been established.
Are there any changes to transport regulations?
Sarah: The Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations by sea and air are international regulations and therefore not affected by Brexit. The UK is a contracting party to the ADR Regulations for the transport of dangerous goods by road and this has not and will not change. There are no predicted changes to the transport of dangerous goods regulations.
As a downstream user of chemicals required across an FE college: if the chemicals are directly ordered from an NI supplier, is the college an importer?
Sarah: Yes it would be classified as an importer. The HSE website defines an importer as someone who brings chemical substances into GB from either the EU/EEA or NI or from the rest of the world. They have responsibilities to hold registrations for these substances unless their non-GB suppliers, where applicable, have appointed an Only Representative to take on the duties on behalf of the GB importer.
Sarah is a dangerous good safety adviser and consultancy manager for EcoOnline. Learn more about its Chemical Manager software here.