In December last year, EU chemical manufacturers will have breathed a collective sigh of relief that the first phase of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) compliance was completed successfully. In this phase high volume and hazardous chemicals were registered with the European Chemicals Agency (EECHA).
There is little doubt that whilst manufacturers, distributors and downstream users of chemicals may recognise 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 European Union. 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 that need to be addressed now. One major consideration is the new rules and changes involving the delivery of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to customers in Europe.
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 SDSs are needed at every stage of the supply chain, this issue will impact thousands of companies.
It is clear that new methods of delivering SDSs 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 SDSs must be supplied directly to the customer so there are some obvious problems with current working practices in this areas. If we look at each of 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or record proof of delivery without significant time, effort and cost and obviously does not physically replace old, out of date versions of an SDS;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 emails, 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 SDSs, 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.
So the issues facing companies are many and 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 SDSs?
- 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?
- 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 SDSs 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 SDSs.
SDS delivery service
REACH Delivery is a new industry-wide SDS delivery service aimed at alleviating the headaches around REACH compliance concerning the delivery of SDSs and other documents. As a secure online service it facilitates the electronic delivery, receipt, control, update, audit and tracking of SDSs 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 SDSs replace any versions previously sent, alerting customers and staff to it.
Documents from all of a company’s 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.
REACH Delivery is free to use, with an optional ‘pay as you send’ area for users wanting to send documents externally, who will then pay a low ‘per document’ fee.
All that is required is a set-up and registration process, and then users can send securely the latest SDSs and other documents to their customer’s desktops and receive proof of delivery. Recipients always use the service completely free of charge and users can also send documents free of charge internally to ensure that the latest SDSs are being used across an organisation.
The service operates on a ‘many-to many’ basis, allowing companies, no matter where they are located, to be able to manage and automate the sending and receiving of SDS, and other documents and messages, within a fully secure and audited environment. It is international and multi-lingual as well as being easy to use.
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. REACH Delivery has been designed to meet the requirements of new international legislation as and when it is required.
The system already functions on an international basis. Non-EU firms can use it to comply with REACH by securely delivering SDS to their customers in Europe. They can also use it outside of Europe and in their own countries, as it supports the delivery and receipt of SDS and any other documents worldwide, or to distribute SDSs free of charge throughout their company.
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 SDSs will ease the complexity and ensure one key element of compliance is addressed. At the end of the day, after all the hard work that has gone into registration, it doesn’t make sense for companies to gamble with their compliance. ♦