EEF called for UK manufacturers to get to grips with the requirements of European Directive on the restriction or banning of certain hazardous substances.
Although failure to comply to REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) regulation is a criminal offence that can result in unlimited fines or even two years in prison, a survey published by the manufacturers’ organisation shows that levels of awareness of these implications – which EEF defined the “elephant in the room” – remain worryingly low, expecially among smaller companies.
EEF also urged government to do more to raise awareness of REACH.
The organisation’s research showed that 20% of companies still believe REACH is not applicable to them while a further 30% say it isn’t important to their business. However, they are gradually restricting the deployment of hazardous chemicals that are commonly used in manufacturing processes.
EEF head of climate and environment policy, Gareth Stace, said: “For many companies there is the very real risk of lost business if they are unable to advise their suppliers whether their products contain certain materials and, where they are, how their use is being monitored. Furthermore, if companies don’t plan for substance bans, it could prevent production entirely.”
Where there is a strong enough argument for continued use of a banned substance, companies can apply to the European Commission to continue to use it. The first such deadline is just a month away.
Furthermore, companies have just six months to make themselves aware of the implications of the next major deadline for registration of chemicals in June 2013. This could see certain substances being withdrawn from the market.
Initial estimates suggest the cost of REACH is around €2billion, whilst the cost for large companies to apply for continued use of a substance is at least 50,000 euros. The survey showed that REACH is perceived as costly and complex with the cost and time companies are spending on dealing with it creeping up. 60% of companies have seen moderate increases, whilst a fifth have described the increase as significant in the last two years.
Stace continued: “When armed with the right information manufacturers are doing the right things – substituting substances that are of concern with safer alternatives. But we need to see government and European regulators and legislators to do all they can to raise awareness and make it easier for companies to understand the implications of it on their business.
To help companies, EEF offers a widespread advisory and consultancy service on the implications of the REACH regulations, as well as a programme of ongoing seminars and guidance. Further details can be obtained from eef.org.uk/REACH