REACH: An Overview

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) have been the foremost governing framework dictating the use of chemicals across industries in the UK and Europe since 2007. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was the penultimate body updating, enforcing, and enacting the laws across Europe and the UK.

The law operated on two key levels – to ensure the safe use of chemicals in industries and to keep the chemical industry competitive. With a burden of proof on the companies, REACH encompassed a wide range of industries since it included manufacturing, supply, and consumption of chemicals. Hence, most businesses in the EU and UK have been directly impacted by REACH.

The idea has been to focus on standardized practices of aggregating and analyzing data to understand the use and potential risks of chemicals. It divided the entire value chain of chemicals into manufacturers, importers, downstream users, and companies outside the EU.

How Did Brexit Impact EU REACH?

The European Union was expecting the UK to be a part of ECHA or stay compliant with it, even after Brexit. However, in early 2020, the UK made it clear in its draft document that it will be forming a new framework applicable to companies in the UK under the banner ‘UK REACH.’

The Health and Safety Executive has laid out a directive stating that unlike EU REACH, companies supplying to or sourcing from European Union, European Economic Area, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain will have to comply with both the EU REACH and UK REACH. In the EU REACH, exporters to the European Union and its associated economic zones did not have the onus of staying compliant with the EU REACH laws. The importers were bearing the burden of compliance. The UK REACH regulation is covering both the supply and purchases side of the chemical value chain, making the law all the more extensive.

In terms of compliance, the UK REACH regulation process seems to be quite similar to the EU REACH process:

1. You have to create a dossier compliant with the International Uniform Chemical Information Database (IUCID 6), the format that was applicable to EU REACH.

2. The British government has created a dedicated platform – Comply with UK REACH, for manufacturers, importers, and downstream users to upload their compliance dossiers.

How is the Changing Nature of REACH Impacting Businesses?

The REACH change is impacting businesses depending on where they hold their assets. Here is an overview of how businesses from different jurisdictions can comply with the REACH regime changes:

1. UK-Based Businesses: Manufacturers and importers in the UK will have to register on the UK REACH platform. They will also have to ensure they are independently compliant with the EU REACH laws as well. If the business has been historically registered in the UK with EU REACH compliance, it can go through the ‘grandfathering’ process and can get the UK to REACH compliance in place.

The Downstream Users registered in the UK can continue importing the EU REACH compliant chemicals. They will now be treated as Importers and will have to comply with the consequent laws. However, they will have to ensure that the imports are compliant with the UK REACH standards and fill up a Downstream User Import Notification (DUIN) within 2, 4, or 6 years from October 28, 2021.

2. Businesses in Northern Ireland: Businesses registered in Northern Ireland can continue using the EU REACH. However, UK-based businesses importing chemicals (finished or intermediate products) will have to file a compliance dossier within 300 days of the end of the transition period. (Note: The transition period ended on December 31, 2020.)

Furthermore, UK-based businesses that want to continue exporting or supplying to the European Union or the European Economic Area can do so by transferring their registrations to an EU or EEA-based entity. They can also appoint an Only Representative organization to this or assist their buyers in getting compliance in place.

Here is the guidance on what laws are applicable to companies, depending on the applicable jurisdiction:

Target Market (→) EU/EEA UK Northern Ireland
Registered In (↓)

(Please Note: This is a simplified observation of the ideal of the updated law for getting a preliminary idea. To understand the applicable laws in detail, explore the information published by ECHA or the Health & Safety Executive. You can get a summarized and easy to understand version of the REACH regulations UK 210 here.)

All the UK-based companies that have to adapt to the EU REACH compliance will also have to be compliant with the CLR, BPR, PIC, and POP standards.

How to Proceed from Here?

The deadline for making the Brexit transition across most industries has already passed. However, as observable in most UK REACH regulation data published by the HSE, the deadlines for reporting the necessary dossiers are still a few months away. Businesses in the UK and the EU can take the following approach to stay compliant:

1. Determine their Role in the Supply Chain: The downstream users in the UK have now become the importers in the UK. Similar changes have come across the board. Your business might take one of one the following roles: Manufacturer, Importer, Downstream User, Only Representatives, Businesses Outside EU/EEA, and Businesses Outside UK.

2. Examine the Supply Chain You Operate in: It will now become important to examine your supply chain, paying attention to both the upstream and downstream logistics. You will need data on every originating point, supplier, and manufacturer in the value chain. This will determine the onus of compliance and help you understand whether you should work with some other third-party or test the compliance of the chemicals.

3. Index All the Applicable Laws and Determine the Cost of Transition: Depending on your role in the supply chain, you will either get grandfathered in the UK system, or you will have to update with the new compliance regime. In both cases, make sure you evaluate the costs of keeping your dossier assets under a European entity or a UK-based entity.

4. Choose Between an Only Representative or a Counterparty Transition: If you are undergoing a handover of assets to comply, you can use an Only Representative or help your counterparty perform the necessary transit steps for compliance.

5. Expect Changes and Stay Updated: While the UK government and EU bodies have started amending the laws, you should expect more changes to come and stay updated on the last amendment in regulations. To know more about the REACH beyond UK-90 laws, visit the HSE website or click here.

You can seek assistance from experts like APA Engineering. The firm operates a unified platform offering engineering, sourcing, compliance, and technology services. To know more about how the APA Engineering team can help you, click here.


If this regulation is applicable to you and you are interested in knowing more about this topic and available solutions, then schedule a free consult with our experts.