The HSE Podcast
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 5 - CLP, REACH, PIC and Industry voices

After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 5 - CLP, REACH, PIC and Industry voices

February 9, 2021

After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 5 - CLP, REACH, PIC and Industry voices

 

In this instalment, we invite two industry voices to discuss changes to Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP), Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Prior Informed Consent (PIC) regulations. We also explore the actions they have taken to keep their businesses moving following the end of the UK transition period.

 

If you have any concerns regarding UK Transition and the changes to REACH and CLP regulations, contact HSE at the earliest opportunity via ukreach.clp@hse.gov.uk.

 

If you have any questions regarding UK REACH enforcement, please contact the HSE at the earliest opportunity via CRDEnforcement@hse.gov.uk.

 

Podcast Transcript

 

Good day and welcome to episode 6 of the HSE podcast with me Mick Ord. Over the past few months we’ve been discussing the key regulatory changes which have been implemented now that the UK has left the European Union.  In the last episode we heard from businesses about how they had been preparing for changes to PPP (Plant Protection Products) and BPR – Biocides Products Regulations, in the run up to 2021.

 

This time round we’re looking at how people have been preparing for the changes to CLP, that’s the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures, REACH – that’s the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals, and PIC – Prior Informed Consent, now known as GB PIC, which concerns the import and export of hazardous chemicals.

 

John Mackenzie, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Thomas Swan in County Durham, is back with us I’m pleased to say, as is a new guest on the podcast Dr Chris Howick from Inovyn Chlorvinyls in Runcorn.  They produce mainly chlorine, caustic soda and chlorinated derivatives from plants in the UK and all over Europe. They employ a total of 750 people.  I started by firstly asking Chris about the challenges his company faced in the run up to 2021 as they prepared for the new GB regulations.

 

Chris:

Well I think it’s been an interesting journey from the very announcement of the referendum result.  It caused a lot of discussion in the early days but I think bit by bit as regulations started to come in the UK and preparedness from the regulatory agencies in the EU progressed, it was a little easier to see exactly what we had to do.  I think we had a few stop start processes with the no deal scenarios because we had to get ready to transfer REACH registrations and Biocides registrations across to a European entity or an ongoing European entity for the initial leaving dates and of course we had two or three leaving dates in the end and so we then had to cancel those transfers to bring them back to ensure that they didn’t transfer.  So it’s been quite eventful in that respect but I think to a certain extent it didn’t matter whether there was a free trade deal or not because we were going  to have to go through these actions anyway, so I think it gave us a little bit of extra time preparing it and I think now that that is done we can concentrate on the actions for ensuring that we are compliant with the new UK regimes where there’s a little bit of a grace period before the first sets of deadlines come up with that.

 

 

Mick:

John Mackenzie, was that a similar scenario at your company, in terms of ensuring that your products are REACH compliant?

 

John:

Indeed it was, yes very similar.  I remember contacting some of our suppliers, the smaller guys especially and kind of like the rabbit in the headlights reaction from them like – what you mean we’ve got to change and do things that we didn’t do before, but now it’s gone from there to their saying yes, that’s fine no problem.  So we’ve come on a huge journey from the referendum in 2016 wasn’t it – to now by the time this comes out – we will have left and it’s come from not knowing very much at all about what we are going to have to do to being pretty comfortable that we are on top of things. So yes, it’s been quite a journey.

 

Mick:

Chris, for you in terms of Classification, Labelling and Packaging, CLP, any observations about how the transition period has gone in that particular section?

 

Chris:

I think it’s been a little more straight forward, than the REACH situation, the advantage is although we now have two regulatory regimes, we manufacture at sites throughout the EU but we have a significant presence in the UK and so as far the UK manufacturing assets is concerned, we now have two regulatory regimes, one in the UK and one in the EU.  The advantage is, of course, that we start with the same situation for classification and labelling  because clearly on the 31 of December 2020, the UK had the European CLP regulation and this now transfers to the UK one.  It remains to be seen whether there is differentiation and whether it happens and then to what extent it happens but there are some subtleties in that clearly when we supply companies in the EU from our UK site, those companies often become the importer and so they carry some additional responsibilities by importing material from outside of the EU into the EU and it works the other way round as well.  If we import from one of our sites on the Continent, we now have to ensure that there’s reference to the UK or I should say GB classification regulation there as well and as I say at the moment, we start with the same classification so it’s a technical or administrative task, but we just need to see how that develops in the future and whether the UK will deviate or have a different opinion on a case by case or chemical by chemical basis.

 

 

Mick:

And how did you know that the various actions you describe were required?  Where did you go for that information?

Chris:

Well, we’re very fortunate in that we play an active role in the Chemical Industries Association and also on the polymers side from the British Plastics Federation, so we’re active in those two trade associations for the chemicals and polymers side of our business.  They’ve both been a very good source of information so the regular meetings and organisations of webinars with input from the UK regulators.  On the European side actions, there has been some good, detailed guidance documents on the European Chemicals Agency website as well as the change in obligations from companies and the particular guidance on how you had to navigate through what’s termed the REACH IT, which is the Agency’s submission portal for chemicals as well as what the obligations for companies were for that, particularly on the REACH side rather than the CLP side.  And then, of course, we did get the statutory instruments which of course are phenomenally difficult to read because they refer to the original European legislation.  They only really highlight what  changes by making them a UK regulation.  I think companies, particularly on the continent that found the UK Statutory Instrument thinking they were going to find how they had to comply and it’s  very, very difficult to read even if English is your first language.   I think it’s the guidance that goes with it now and certainly the Government website has got a lot more information on and the HSE and Defra have done some very good roadshows over the last two or three years that have been very informative and I think recordings of those are still available on the internet if companies want to catch up with those.  Those were particularly useful and I would say a lot more informative in the early stages than the initial guidance, but certainly we’ve now got some good documents from the UK regulators as well. 

 

Mick:

What about the situation in terms of the export and import of hazardous chemicals – PIC?

 

Chris:

The Prior Informed Consent side has taken us a little longer to set the systems up because we weren’t sure exactly how the UK was going to do it but with materials transferring between our sites in the EU and our UK sites and vice versa, of course what would just be a seamless transportation before the end of the transition period, now has to be licensed and because the UK is now out, we did have to essentially apply for licenses before the end of the transition period in order to ensure that we had the necessary licenses for export.  ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency work on a 35 day lead time for PIC applications, so those all had to be submitted well in time for the end of the year to ensure that they were in place. 

Going the other way, the UK system is more based on seeking permission and authorisation via email.  The UK has a system which is fit for purpose because of the smaller size of the market.  I don’t think it’s gone for this extensive IT system that there is on the European side, but I think we’ll see how that goes in the HSE and the Competent Authorities in the UK, I think we’ll keep that under review as to whether it needs to be expanded, but again we had to set those up to be ready for the exports to go in January.  We are confident that things are in place and we’ll review it as the New Year progresses.

 

Mick:

John, PIC doesn’t necessarily apply to you does it?  What about CLP and REACH – have you got anything to add?

 

John:

In terms of preparations we’ve made do you mean?  Technically, we are a medium sized enterprise and we don’t have any footprint in the EU, we don’t have an office or another site so what we had to do was to set up a relationship with what’s called an Only Representative or OR for short in the EU so we’ve done that with a German company and it’s a consultants again and what’s going to have to happen is – we transfer our REACH registrations to them first and they then accept them (in the New Year) and that will be our registrations transferred into the EU and then we’ll have to grandfather those into the UK system so it will end up with is REACH registrations in the UK and the EU.  Of course we will only need those in the EU for chemicals that we supply (or products we supply) into the EU.

 

But we’ll end up with two sets of registrations instead of one and also potentially, two sets of costs instead of one because every time you set up a REACH registration, you have to buy into the dossier of data that exists and it can be very expensive, tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds or euros, so potentially you will have to pay twice.  Now I don’t expect that our costs are going to be doubled, but they will be significantly greater than they were before.

 

Mick:

I was just going to ask you John, whether you think that that situation is replicated among other businesses of a similar size to yours?

 

John:

I’m sure it will be.  Chris can comment on this as well.  I am sure that every single chemical company who wants to supply into the EU will have increased costs because of the fact that we are having to deal in two jurisdictions now, the UK and the EU.

Mick:

Chris, do you just want to add to what John said there?

 

Chris:

Yes, I think there clearly will be increased costs on what’s termed the sweat equity side which is the amount of time and effort that companies have to put in to actually doing all the administrative side work and submission of dossiers etc.  I think industry is generally trying to come up with a pragmatic solution on the data sharing issues.  Companies set up consortia between themselves to initially develop the EU REACH dossier and that was all based on sharing and each company in the same volume band essentially paying the same amount of money.  We are hoping that some pragmatism will come out of that with their approach to granting data to UK companies registering for UK REACH, but it will be a sort of consortium by consortium approach.  Some companies may take a different view, but clearly companies may have to pay for data access whereas at the moment they don’t have to and I think that the biggest, most significant change by the introduction of the UK system is companies that are today buying from suppliers in the EU, sort of change from being a downstream user in the EU system, to an importer in the UK system.  So, as a downstream user in the EU system there’s no obligation to register but as an importer there is an obligation to register if your supplier hasn’t registered or isn’t going to register so I think that remains something of an unknown situation.  We don’t know how many companies will be caught by that, we just need to see how many EU manufacturers are prepared to register their substances on the UK market and under the UK system. 

 

John:

I think that’s a really good point.  I think the biggest impact in the chemicals industry is on those people who are distributors who have never had to register their chemicals up to now, but now they will have to every time they import from the EU.  One of the things that we did as a company was we did a survey of all our suppliers globally, every single one.  We sent them out some information a couple of years ago, just so they were aware of what was going to be going on and to ask them a few questions and I got some positive answers.  The bigger companies that you would expect, knew what they were doing, were fine with it, it was the smaller companies who didn’t realise that they were  going to have to now register for their imports -and maybe import relatively small amounts - … they didn’t realise they were going to have to register them now.  That’s a couple of years ago and now it’s turned around so we went from about half a dozen, maybe a few more than that, were on what we call the critical list of raw materials that we buy from suppliers, now down to just one, which is a fairly small, minor component in something, and so there has been a big shift in knowledge and information in the industry, so you know it’s changed a lot in the last few years I think. 

 

Chris:

It’s clearly getting better I think but the concern is maybe on the SME side where particularly the import I think of chemical mixtures and this particular one in the polymers sector where quite a common ingredient would be what’s termed as either a stabilizer master batch or a pigment master batch which sort of blends of various stabilisers, anti-oxidants, pigments and a lot of companies would all buy these additives in one formulation, in a formulated product, you know sort of Blue 29 or something and if they are buying those from an EU supplier, in theory each substance in that mixture, will need to be registered or you would need to know it’s been registered and for the supplier of that material, if the ingredient isn’t  hazardous, it’s not classified as hazardous, there is no sort of compulsion to declare exactly what the components are so these materials are being imported with good safety data sheets for the mixture, but it’s very difficult to ascertain what the chemical components are.  As an importer, you have to do a downstream notification and then a registration.  It’s a particular challenge, but I think companies certainly have welcomed the change in the timeline of registrations now to this post two year, four year, six year periods, because particularly those SME’s now have got some time to resolve these issues with their supply chain and I think that’s been very welcome.

 

Mick:

What actions would you recommend Chris for those businesses who don’t feel prepared and maybe fall into the SME category that you’ve just been talking about?

 

Chris:

I think for SME companies in the UK it’s just - have a think and check with your suppliers. Just try and understand what it is you are importing - are you importing a mixture or a pure substance?  And the most important question probably I think that you would need to know ideally in advance of the 27th of October, but certainly by the 27th of October, is whether your supplier is registering that or is somewhere up the supply chain? Are the substances in that mixture, or is that substance, going to be notified and registered under the UK system?   So, there’s a deadline for notifications for those importers by the 27th of October, 2021 .  That’s not a registration, but it’s a notification and ideally check with your suppliers before then that you know that you don’t have the registration obligation, it’s all being taken care of further up the supply chain.  I think that’s the first and probably perhaps the most important aspect and just engage with your supply chain – just say what are you preparing to do?  Is the substance grandfathered into UK REACH or if not is it going to be notified and registered under UK REACH either by your supplier or your supplier’s supplier.  Just ensure that that information is flowing up and down the supply chains.

 

 

Mick:

John, have you got anything to add to that?

 

John:

No, that’s really well covered by Chris.  If anything I would say check with your trade bodies, get some advice from them, see what they say.  They’ll no doubt have information ready to send to you if you need it and check the gov.uk website because they’ve got really good check lists, they’re really rough and ready but they are really good to point you in the right direction.  Of course, the HSE website has got good information on it as well.

 

(Music interlude)

 

Mick:

A big thank you to John Mackenzie and Chris Howick for their thoughts and observations which I hope you found useful. If there are still any areas where you feel you need some more information then log onto the HSE website which is regularly updated – there is a link in the notes accompanying this podcast.  Remember too that you can contact our helpdesk directly. Just email your question to EU-exitchemicals@hse.gov.uk and we’ll respond as soon as possible. Again, the email is in the notes that come with the podcast.

 

And please subscribe to our eBulletin newsletters too.  You do this by popping your email address into the subscription boxes which you’ll find on the HSE website.  We’ll keep you informed of news and updates as they affect the chemicals industry.

 

So many thanks for joining us, good luck with your business for this year.  From me, Mick Ord and the rest of the team….it’s good bye until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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