- Getting ready for the Biocidal Products Regulation
- World of biocides brought up to date
- Steering the work to make the new biocides regulation a success
- From our stakeholders: "Support for small enterprises is crucial"
- Setting up national biocides helpdesks
- New online tools for biocides applications
- Raising awareness on the new Biocidal Products Regulation
- Working together for better communication on the safe use of chemicals
- What to do when receiving an extended safety data sheet?
- Working towards the REACH dossier evaluation goal
- Setting the scene for applications for authorisation
- Board of Appeal members' term in office prolonged
- Guest column: Reflections on the review of REACH
- Making use of derived no-effect levels generated under REACH
- Call for creative ideas to overcome REACH challenges
- Croatia joins the EU chemicals management framework
- Debating chemicals policy
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Article related to: people_and_perspectives
Call for creative ideas to overcome REACH challenges
"Only by listening to the opinions of our stakeholders are we able to understand better and only by understanding, will we be able to regulate better," said Antonio Tajani, the Vice President of the European Commission in his opening at the Technical Workshop on the Review of REACH held in Brussels on 27 June. The aim was to listen to the views of SMEs, which deal with the challenges of the regulation every day, and find practical solutions. ECHA Newsletter reports back on some of the views presented at the workshop.
Not a niche issue
Allen Creedy, the Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Environment, Energy and Water Committee in the UK, gave an overview of the challenges that the small and micro non-chemical businesses face, when striving for REACH compliance. "It is right that potentially dangerous chemicals are regulated and controlled. Small businesses have the duty to protect human health and the environment, it is only right that we play our role. But, unlike large businesses, many of us cannot afford the administrative time and cost that so often comes with these 'one size fits all' regulations which unfortunately REACH is," he said.
He also pointed out that now, after the 2013 registration deadline, REACH is very much a small business issue. "Unfortunately, the complexity of the regulation is stopping SMEs from creating jobs and generating wealth."
Mr Creedy listed a few simple things that could help small companies. Firstly, he said, there is a need to increase awareness. "According to a survey in the United Kingdom, 50% of the small companies are not aware of REACH. We are not getting across to small and micro business. We need to now have a consorted effort to raise awareness of SME responsibilities and information on where they can turn to get help."
Another point that he made is that SMEs need simple and tailored guidance. "The guidance needs to give SMEs confidence that they are complying with the regulation." In addition, the functioning in substance information exchange forums is a concern. "We would like to see official and concrete guidance on fair cost sharing," he stated.
Lastly, Mr Creedy called for an effective monitoring system to provide understanding of the impact of REACH on SME competitiveness.
More support in local languages
Ms Borbala Otto from a Hungarian SME Agroterm lists language barriers, the complexity of IT tools, safety data sheets and the costs of registration as the main challenges her company faces with REACH compliance.
Language barriers, in various REACH communications from the ECHA website and IT tools for substance information exchange forums, might create legal uncertainties, as taking a decision based on insufficient understanding is difficult. "I am the only one in the company who speaks English and I am neither a toxicologist, chemical engineer nor lawyer, so for me to understand the regulation itself or the guidance documents is very difficult," Ms Otto said.
As a suggestion for overcoming the language barriers, Ms Otto asked for national authorities to provide more practical training in national languages. The challenge with safety data sheets comes when the supplier does not provide all the information required by law. "Why should we be responsible for our supplier's noncompliance? Downstream users are not able to provide the information that the authorities are asking for," she said.
She would like to see a Europeanwide safety data sheet centre, where all the safety data sheets would be collected. "Suppliers should be made to upload their data sheets into the system, including translations, and the users could then download them."
The cost of registration is another hurdle, according to Ms Otto. But the issue is not so much the registration fee, but more the costs of letters of access and consortium membership. "We are not sure what the administrative cost of the letters of access covers, as this is not very transparent. As a member of a consortium, I am also granted ownership of the data. However, if I buy a letter of access for the same amount of money, I do not own the data. In most of the cases, this does not seem fair," she said.
Ms Otto would like ECHA to be more involved in SIEF activities. She would like ECHA to lay down certain rules concerning the ownership of data and define what transparent, fair and non-discriminative cost sharing means.
"We would also love to have a proportionate distribution of fees based on the production volume, an opportunity to pay in installments as well as potentially to get some subsidy from the national government or the EU."
She also suggests creating an EU fund to provide resources for SMEs to pay for legal services and experts to help them comply with the provisions of the regulation in their own language.
The presentations and recordings of all 17 speakers of the conference as well as discussion sessions are available on the European Commission's website.
Read more about ECHA's activities concerning SMEs in upcoming newsletter issues.
Text by Hanna-Kaisa Torkkeli. Top image: European Commission.
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
6-8 March and
Committee for Socio-Economic
Management Board meeting:
23-27 March (tentative)
Member State Committee:
20-24 April (tentative)