REACh is a European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals. It came into force on 1st June 2007 and combined a number of separate European Directives and Regulations with a single system applicable across all EU member states.


REACh has several aims:

  •         To provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals
  •         To make the people who place chemicals on the market (manufacturers, importers and distributors responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their          use)
  •         To allow the free movement of substances on the EU market
  •         To enhance innovation in and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry
  •         To promote the use of alternative methods for the assessment of the hazardous properties of substances e.g. quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) and read                 across
  •         To implement the United Nations Globally Harmonised System equally across all EU member states

There are several steps impacting substance supply under the REACH regulations:

Registration – here the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is charged with collating information from market suppliers (manufacturers and importers) on substances traded with the EEA

Evaluation – several committees and individual member states review all available registered data, scientific and consultation opinion with regards to a substance

For certain substances their risk to human health or the environment may be significant enough to warrant removal from the supply chain, in the event that Socio-Economic argument derives a benefit in continued supply whilst alternatives are sourced the substance would become subject to Authorisation i.e. only used by end-users/operators in the manner described in their individual and approved application

For other substances their risk to human health or the environment may not warrant total withdrawal from the supply chain but risks may be more prevalent for certain groups e.g. children’s development. Here a restriction will be placed upon the supply chain to eliminate the risk to a distinct group. For example a substance may remain permitted for use in an industrial product but will not be permitted in child care articles and toys

Scope and exemptions

REACh applies to substances manufactured or imported into the EU in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year. Generally, it applies to all individual chemical substances on their own, in preparations or in articles (if the substance is intended to be released during normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions of use from an article).

Some substances are specifically excluded:

  •         Radioactive substances
  •         Substances under customs supervision
  •         The transport of substances
  •         Non-isolated intermediates
  •         Waste
  •         Some naturally occurring low-hazard substances

Some substances, covered by more specific legislation, have tailored provisions, including:

  •         Human and veterinary medicines
  •         Food and foodstuff additives
  •         Plant protection products and biocides
  •         Isolated intermediates
  •         Substances used for research and development

COSHH and REACH sit side-by-side. Both of them call for risk assessment.

The main obligations

Who must assess risk? The employer The manufacturer or importer, mostly
What substances? Hazardous to health, including those arising from processes and germs Manufactured or imported in quantities of 10 or more tonnes per year in the EU
What duty? Control exposure in all uses by site and process-specific measures Develop exposure scenarios and identify ‘Risk Management Measures' for named tasks and procedures


For further information:

Source of Information:


Last Updated: 11/08/2017
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