Health and Safety Executive

UK Reach and Substances that require Registration

Under UK REACH there is a requirement for those GB-based companies that manufacture or import chemical substances in quantities of one tonne or more per year to register those substances. There is no definitive list of substances that require registration under UK REACH. Registration applies to substances which are manufactured in or imported into GB in quantities of one tonne or more per year. The application of UK REACH is the same as under EU REACH. The exemptions that applied under EU REACH, have been retained in UK REACH, including Annex IV and V. Metals will be treated the same way under UK REACH as they were under EU REACH.

Additionally, Annex XIV lists the substances that require authorisation under UK REACH https://www.hse.gov.uk/reach/authorisation-list.htm Annex XVII lists the substances that are restricted, along with their conditions of restriction. The substances that are restricted under UK REACH are the same as those listed here: Substances restricted under REACH – ECHA (europa.eu), apart from entry 75 (substances in tattoo ink), which entered into force after the end of the transition period.

Pure metals obtained from ores or ore concentrates are regarded as substances as far as UK REACH is concerned and subject to registration requirements. Metal alloys are regarded as special mixtures, and the component substances within that mixture are subject to registration (if imported in a total quantity of 1 tonne/year or more). For example, for brass, the metals zinc and copper would be registered. The duty to register falls with the company who manufactures the metal/alloy or first imports it into GB.  If a company manufacture/import the metal/alloy, then they will have a responsibility to register those substances under UK REACH.

However, it maybe that the form of metal that is manufactured/imported and used could be regarded as an article; In these circumstances, the duty to register would not apply.  In REACH, an article is an object which has been given a special surface, shape or design which is more important than its chemical composition. Metals in the form of ingots or blooms, etc. (which are simply convenient objects to facilitate transport) are usually treated as substances. Although these have a shape, in our opinion these shapes are less important than the composition, (pure Ti for example). Metals in the form of sheets, profiles, billets, etc are usually considered to be articles. Mechanical processing of these, such as pressing a sheet of metal into a more complex, does not alter this ‘article’ status.

Where metals undergo a major transformation in shape, such as the use in welding or castings, then here the chemical composition has become more important again they are regarded as substances.

Deciding when the material has stopped being a substance/preparation and becomes an object can be difficult and what could be regarded as an article by some might simply be thought of as a different shaped lump of metal by others.  The issue of metals and articles is discussed in more detail in the ECHA guidance document on substances in articles (Draft_for_final_tracked_ex_CARACAL_x-check (europa.eu)). Whilst this is an EU document, the technical aspects remain relevant under UK REACH.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU REACH continues to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period (31st December 2020). Northern Ireland will remain part of EU regulatory systems for chemicals to ensure frictionless movement of goods within the island of Ireland, whilst remaining within the UK customs territory. Northern Ireland businesses will retain their current EU REACH status and obligations allowing them to maintain current supply chains to the EU/EEA. This applies to authorisation as well and the EU CTAC authorisations cover users in NI in the same way as they over users in for example France or Germany.

Formally, it is an offence for a person to fail to comply with, or cause another person to fail to comply with, their duties under GB REACH. In approaching any breach, there are a number of options open to the HSE, ranging from Advice, Improvement Notices or Prohibition Notices. In the extreme, the case could lead to prosecution in an appropriate court.