How Does REACH Work?

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

12th June 2019

We recently published a comprehensive overview and introduction to REACH, and in this article we’ll look in more detail at how REACH works.

What Does REACH Stand For?

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It’s a European Union regulation dating from 2007 regarding the safe use of chemicals, written with the aim of improving the protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by chemicals.

REACH requires that the chemical industry has certain and transparent knowledge of the properties of its substances and that it manages and communicates potential risks effectively. It also actively works to reduce testing on animals by promoting alternative methods, and it increases healthy competition between European chemical companies.

What Companies Does REACH Apply To?

The REACH regulations are actually applicable to the majority of companies in the European Union, as they concern all chemical substances whether they are for use industrially, commercially, or domestically. The regulations relate to any company which intends to manufacture or import a tonne or more per year of a particular chemical or product containing chemicals. For example, that includes household cleaning products, paints, and electrical appliances.

How REACH works - REACH regulations apply to companies providing any products containing chemicals including electrical equipment

REACH applies to:

  • Chemical manufacturers: companies that sell the chemicals they make either directly or through another company
  • Chemical importers: companies that buy chemicals, chemical blends or finished products containing chemicals – such as plastic products or furniture – from outside the European Union
  • Chemical distributors: you store and distribute chemicals or chemical blends within the EU
  • ‘Downstream’ users: companies that use chemicals or chemical blends in any industrial or professional activity

REACH obligations don’t apply to chemical companies established outside the European Union. The responsibility for meeting REACH obligations is with the importers established in the EU.

How REACH Works

How REACH works - REACH is a set of EU regulations

To comply with REACH regulations, a company must identify and manage any risk associated with the chemical substances they produce and/or sell within the EU. Responsibility for doing this is firmly placed on the company.

  1. Companies must register the chemicals they produce or sell, demonstrating how the substance can be used safely and working together with other companies registering the same substance
  2. These registration documents are sent to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) for evaluation and the registration of compliance
  3. The EU Member States evaluate substances if any concerns for human health or the environment are raised.
  4. Regional authorities and the ECHA’s scientific committees undertake assessments to ascertain whether the risks posed by the chemical substances can be managed
  5. If the risks aren’t manageable, the substance can be banned, limited or restricted – normally to be replaced by a safer substance

How Much Does REACH Cost?

REACH charges different fees depending on the type of submission and size of company. There are also other costs related to REACH registration, such as safety assessments and research into substitutes if your product doesn’t comply with regulations.

For useful short guides to different aspects of REACH, such as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and minimisation of animal testing, we recommend reading the excellent Health & Safety Executive resources.


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