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Article related to: Communicating about safety
Safer products mean loyal customers
Société Lorraine de Peintures et Vernis (SLPV) is a small family company manufacturing industrial paints and varnishes. Each of their customers orders different formulations according to their needs, which means that the company deals with hundreds of substances and different formulations daily. ECHA Newsletter spoke with Chantal Remy, who is in charge of purchasing and regulatory compliance in SLPV, to hear how a small company makes sure they comply with the REACH and CLP Regulations.
Ms Remy is responsible for buying the substances used in the formulations, classifying the mixtures, labelling the products, preparing the safety data sheets and providing them to the clients. "My task is to ensure that we use less hazardous chemicals. This is important for the health and safety of both our workers and those of our clients. Therefore, I follow the legal developments regarding hazardous chemicals closely," Ms Remy says.
Proactive approach to safer substances
The strategy of the company is to eliminate the more hazardous substances from their formulations. "As the implementation of REACH advances and more substances of high concern are identified every year, I work to eliminate such substances from our supply chain - either by looking to buy others that can replace them, or by changing formulations," Ms Remy explains.
The company has been active in substituting hazardous substances for 15 years and Ms Remy has been directly involved. "Every time we find technically viable solutions, we eliminate hazardous substances. It took us about four years of research to eliminate the use of toxic lead in pigments. Then we also stopped using chromates. This we did before REACH came into force," she says.
"We do not wait for the substances to go on the list of chemicals that have to be replaced. We do our best to stay ahead of REACH," says Ms Remy. She follows the developments of the legislation with the help of the chamber of industry and other support organisations.
Using free information from public bodies, and working closely with their software provider to prepare the safety data sheets and labels is another important part of the company strategy. For an annual fee, the software editor provides a database of chemical substances and their status under REACH, updated three times a year. This saves time and makes an important contribution to the regulatory monitoring. After doing initial research the company decided that this is the best way to manage the costs of their compliance.
Help is all around
"It is crucial for an SME to work with someone who can advise them on the latest developments," says Ms Remy and points out that it does not have to be a consultant or a professional body. For example, on workers' health and safety, the company seeks information and advice from national and regional administrators for health and safety at work, who in addition to online material, also offer training.
The French REACH Helpdesk, competent authority and inspectors all provide valuable support, giving advice and training on the law and how to apply it.
So, a lot of information and support is available for SMEs, but Ms Remy does always not find it easy to use. She often needs to ask for clarification on what exactly she is required to do. Therefore, her request is that the existing information be made more practical and presented from a company perspective.
Making the best of ECHA's website
Ms Remy does not follow all the news from ECHA, but she often visits the website to search for information on substances. This is very important in her daily work. "For example, when I have a doubt about a supplier and the substance that they are selling, I go to ECHA's website and check if the substance is registered, how it is classified and if it is of very high concern. This has already helped me in a situation where I did not agree with a supplier and, after checking the information on ECHA's website, I decided not to buy from the company," she points out. In that case it was about the self-classification of a hazardous substance where she did not want to make a compromise.
Put pressure on suppliers
Ms Remy points out that it is important to take a critical approach to the information that is provided by suppliers. As a chemist, who previously worked in the company's research lab, she finds this easy to do. The company also employs a chemical engineer with similar experience and she thinks this scientific culture is an important asset for SLPV when they are implementing REACH and CLP.
Other SMEs of the same size may not have the same resources, but they can still put pressure on substance manufacturers and demand that they provide safety data sheets with clear information. "This is imperative. We only work with those suppliers that have done their homework on REACH," Ms Remy says.
The benefit of compliance
As the customers of SLPV are industrial companies, they appreciate knowledge about safety and compliance. "Our customers are also controlled and they know that if we are compliant, they are also compliant when using our products. This is how chemical safety is boosting our brand reputation," Mrs Remy highlights and continues, "not only that, but we make sure that we are ahead of REACH by monitoring developments. If a change is coming, we inform our clients that a new, compliant formulation will become available in due time for their products".
It is very difficult to measure exactly the financial impact of regulatory compliance, but SLPV believes that regulatory compliance is a customer loyalty factor that makes their customers feel safer. "Our products are more expensive because of the approach we have taken to substitution, but so far, our customers are ready to pay for the superior products we provide," Ms Remy concludes.
|Société Lorraine de Peintures et Vernis (SLPV) is a small family company manufacturing industrial paints and varnishes. Each of their customers orders different formulations according to their needs, which means that the company deals with hundreds of substances and different formulations daily. Image: SLPV.|
Société Lorraine de Peintures et Vernis
Société Lorraine de Peintures et Vernis is a small family company manufacturing industrial paints and varnishes mainly for the French market. It has 15 employees.
SLPV has won the "OSCAR of Innovation Prize in Paris" in 2004 and the "Innovation Prize of Paris" in 2012.
Under REACH and CLP, the company operates as a downstream user.
Homepage of Société Lorraine de Peintures et Vernis (in French)http://www.slpv.fr/french/bienvenue
Homepage of the Innovation Prize of Paris (in French)
Interview by Virginia Mercouri
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