All companies involved in the chemicals or metals sectors, or that rely on either of these sectors, should consider the imminent and very critical deadline in the implementation of REACH; although this is a European Regulation, its effect is potentially global.

The European Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) requires the registration of substances (i.e., metals and chemicals) manufactured in or imported into the European Union. As of 1 December 2008, it will be illegal to manufacture in, or sell in or into, the European Union substances in quantities of one tonne or more per year which have not been registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Substances are defined as chemical elements and their compounds, and include preparations of multiple substances (e.g., alloys) and the inclusion of substances in finished products (subject to exceptions). Consequently, the impact of REACH is extremely broad.

The Deadline for REACH Pre-Registration is 30 November 2008

Manufacturers and importers must pre-register their substances through ECHA by 30 November 2008. Pre-registration grants a transitional period to achieve a full registration of up to 10 years, depending on the tonnage of the substance in question. Pre-registration is a free, simple process and can be subsequently amended or de-activated.

Manufacturers and importers are strongly advised to consider whether they fall under the scope of REACH and pre-register if necessary, as the consequences of non-compliance are considerable.

As traders/distributors are not able to pre-register themselves, they are advised to check that their suppliers or customers take over the pre-registration of substances; alternatively traders/distributors must have a strategy for compliance of their own.

Failure to (Pre-)Register May Lead to Fines, Criminal Sanctions, Seizure of Imports

Unregistered importing or manufacturing of substances in or into the European Union must cease as of 1 December 2008. All manufacturing and placing on the market of such substances between 1 December 2008 and the date of suspension of activities are subject to penalties according to the national law of the Member States where the manufacturing or importing occurs.

REACH will not only affect manufacturers, importers and traders/distributors, but also downstream users. For example, downstream users may find their EU operations are interrupted for lack of raw materials should their suppliers fail to comply with REACH.

Time Running Out for Compliance

Due to the severity of the consequences for failing to comply with REACH, it is essential that companies that may be affected are fully aware of their obligations and have a strategy for compliance in place. Time is running out to ensure that business operations are not affected as of 1 December 2008.

More information on REACH compliance strategies for importers of substances/preparations can be found in McDermott’s White Paper “REACH Update: Importer or Only Representative Options for (Pre-)Registration of Multinational Groups.”