An investigation by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has uncovered that of a total of 1 181 companies inspected, 67% did not comply with one or more provisions of obligations under REACH and rules on the classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of chemicals. This dramatic non-compliance percentage shows that there is still a lot of work to be done in training and in enforcement in order to improve the performance.
The ECHA Forum’s second enforcement project (REF-2) focused on checking the compliance of downstream users – particularly formulators of mixtures – with the essential requirements of the REACH and CLP regulations. This enforcement project promoted a level playing field through the harmonisation of enforcement approaches in the Member States and fostered cooperation between inspectors. It was carried out in 29 Member States or EEA countries.
The project’s operational phase was carried out from May 2011 until March 2012. The national enforcement authorities inspected 1 181 enterprises covering 6 900 substances, 4500 mixtures and 4500 safety data sheets (SDSs). The majority of the inspected companies were small or medium-sized. More than half of the inspected companies were not only active as downstream users but also in additional roles, e.g. as manufacturers, importers, distributors and only representatives.
In total, 67% of the inspected companies were non-compliant with one or more provisions of REACH or CLP. Non-compliance was most commonly related to contraventions of (pre-)registration (REACH, 8%), notification (CLP, 15%), failure to keep information (20%) and having deficient risk management measures (12%).
Only 3% of companies failed to have the SDSs on site. However, 52% of the inspected SDSs showed deficiencies. Despite the high rate of defective SDSs, inspectors noticed an improvement in the formats used and availability of SDSs in comparison to earlier inspections. The findings also showed that 93% of the workers could have access to relevant information from SDSs. However, practice shows that the actual rate was, in fact, lower at 79%.
It is clear that the quality of the SDSs and compliance with the notification and registration obligations need to improve. Given the complexity of the new chemicals legislations, industry needs to undergo a learning phase. For that reason, industry should step up its SDS stewardship in order to establish compliance in this area of responsibility. Industry can also find some recommendations in the project report.
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