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Päivi Jokiniemi and Paul Trouth
Article related to: News from ECHA
Working for scientifically sound opinions
ECHA's two Committees, the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC), prepare ECHA's opinions on restrictions, applications for authorisation and harmonised classification and labelling. Their task is to help ensure sound scientific opinion making that can be supported by the European Commission and advance the goals of REACH and CLP. But what exactly is it like to be a committee member? ECHA Newsletter finds out.
Support from Member States crucial
Spanish Benjamin Piña is a third year RAC member whose professional background is in ecotoxicology. He says the experience in RAC has taught him a lot about how to apply science in regulatory work. "I've been able to use my scientific knowledge to bring about a regulatory change," he says, referring to the work he has done as a rapporteur on harmonised classification and labelling.
Mr Piña admits that since the beginning of RAC, the work is getting more and more challenging. "When the committee work started, my role was to participate in the meetings. Now, with all the advances in the legislation and the increase in the number of dossiers, the committee work is quite intense. You have to dedicate your time in between meetings to the preparatory work too."
In the future, he expects the membership may become almost a fulltime job. "Support from the Member State competent authority is crucial for the members to do their job successfully and to fully contribute to the safer management of chemicals in the EU," he points out.
|Simone Fankenhauser at ECHA.|
Step up to the challenge
Ms Simone Fankhauser, an Austrian member of SEAC, is enthusiastic about being a committee member. "It is interesting to work with experts from all of the Member States. Each of them has a different approach and having this regular exchange of views is a very positive experience," she says.
Socio-economic analysis in the European chemicals legislation is a new element introduced by REACH, and SEAC has basically had to start from scratch. "I've been a member from the very beginning, so I have seen all of the developments and the enormous progress that has been made."
The amount of work coming the committee's way is bound to increase with more restrictions and applications for authorisations kicking in. "But that can also be a positive development. More work also means more routine. We are getting more used to tackling difficult issues. It would be good if more members were actively involved and took on dossiers to even up the workload," Ms Fankhauser admits.
She encourages all committee members to be active and to trust that ‘you can learn by doing'. "Take on dossiers and rapporteurships, and you will get great support from ECHA and the other colleagues of the committee," she says and continues, "It was a new and challenging experience for me when I took over one of the first restriction dossiers that came in the committee. But I got help from ECHA and studied my way through the process. Now, there is even much more experience than at the start, so nothing can really go wrong."
Developing your pofessional skills
"It's great to see the development from committee discussions into a decision that is published, for example, in Annex XVII of REACH (list of restrictions). We are part of a process that results in advice to the Commission on their policy decisions," says Jean-Marc Brignon,a second term French member of SEAC.
|Jean-Marc Brignon at ECHA.|
For him, it is evident that committee members actively take on cases as rapporteurs. "Being a member means that you will also be a rapporteur at some point. I remember, when I took on my first case, I got a lot of help from the dossier submitter, my SEAC colleagues and ECHA in understanding the dossier. You are never alone." SEAC work has helped to further improve Mr Brignon's professional skills. "We learn a lot from the dossiers and from other members in the committee. We sometimes criticise and want more explanations, but in a good spirit. These discussions take us forward both in relation to the committee work and individual skills."
Improving efficiency is one of Mr Brignon's solutions for managing the workload. "We need to spend less time on each dossier and not try to understand everything in its finest detail. We need to be more collective, trust each other and let the rapporteurs point us to the important parts. And ask questions, of course," he concludes.
Did you know?
The Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) prepares ECHA's opinions related to the hazards and risks of substances for human health and the environment onharmonised classification and labelling, restrictions and applications for authorisation.
The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) prepares ECHA's opinions related to the socio-economic impact of restrictions and applications for authorisation.
The final decisions on proposals for harmonised classification and labelling, restriction proposals and authorisation applications are taken by the European Commission through a regulatory committee procedure.
The members of RAC and SEAC are nominated by the EU Members States and appointed by the Management Board of ECHA as independent scientists. The committee meetings are attended by ECHA's accredited stakeholders and may be open to advisers, invited experts and observers.
Whenever RAC or SEAC starts developing an opinion, a rapporteur is appointed to 'undertake to act in the interests of the EU'. Their most important tasks are to develop the scientific justification and to properly reflect the views of the Committee in preparing the opinion.
RAC and SEAC each have four plenary meetings a year.
Interviews by Hanna-Kaisa Torkkeli
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
Committee for Socio-Economic
18-22 March (tentative)
Management Board meeting:
Member State Committee:
13-17 May (tentative)