UK REACH & the Roofing Industry

Published: 18 May 2021

James Follows, Compliance Manager at Apollo Roofing, explains what REACH is and what it means for the roofing industry, especially following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

James is the Chair for the Health & Safety Working Group, Vice Chair for the Environment & Sustainability Working Group and a Member of the Technical Working Group at BASA (British Adhesive & Sealant Association). He is also the UK BASA representative for the PU Training Implementation Task Force at FEICA (European Adhesive & Sealant Association).

What is REACH?

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, Restriction of Chemicals) started as a European Regulation. It addresses the safe production and use of chemical substances, across a wide range of sectors. Whilst REACH applies to the roofing and construction industry, it also impacts many sectors, including items you will find around the home, such as cleaning products and paints, as well as materials in clothes, furniture and electrical appliances.

The focus of the regulation is safety, and REACH places the duty of proof on businesses to identify and manage any risks present in the substances they manufacture and market. In short, businesses must be able to demonstrate how the substance can be used safely and they must communicate the current risk management measures to the users throughout the supply chain.

What is UK REACH?

Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the long-standing EU REACH Regulation was brought into the UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as UK REACH. This is separate to yet applies the same principles as EU REACH.

Note: Under the Northern Ireland Protocol the EU REACH Regulation continues to apply to Northern Ireland, while UK REACH provides the regulatory framework for chemicals in Great Britain.

What does this mean for Businesses?

With the introduction of UK REACH, businesses must now ensure that they meet the relevant duties under both UK and EU REACH, if supplying or purchasing substances, mixtures or articles to and from:

  • the European Union (EU)
  • the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Northern Ireland (NI)
  • Great Britain (GB) (England, Scotland, and Wales)

Roles and possible responsibilities throughout the entire supply chain (UK REACH) vary:

UK REACH covers all sectors of manufacturing, importing, distributing or using substances as raw materials or finished products. Roles and responsibilities vary throughout the supply chain, dependent on whether the business is classed as a manufacturer of chemicals, importer, distributor or a downstream user.

Defined responsibilities under UK REACH:

Manufacturers: Produce or extract a substance either through chemical synthesis, smelting or extraction. They are required to hold a valid registration under UK REACH.

Importers: Bring substances into GB from either the EU/EEA, NI or from the rest of the world. They have responsibilities to hold registrations for these substances unless their non-GB suppliers, where applicable, have appointed an ‘Only Representative’ to take on the legal requirements for importing substances into the UK.

Distributors: Companies that store and place on the market a substance, on its own or in a preparation/mixture for third parties do not need to a register with UK REACH, unless they have importer responsibilities. They are responsible for passing on information, such as safety data sheets.

Formulators: Companies that produce mixtures and supply them further down the supply chain or directly to consumers do not need to register with UK REACH, unless they have importer responsibilities. They mix together substances and/or mixtures, with no chemical reaction taking place during the process. However, they should ensure substances used in the mixtures are UK REACH registered.

Downstream Users: As a general guideline, a GB-based supplier purchasing materials/product from a GB-based manufacturer would be classed as a downstream user under UK Reach and the manufacturer will have taken responsibility for import requirements.

Downstream users can be companies or individual workers who directly handle substances in the course of their business activities and are not themselves the GB-based manufacturer or importer of the substances. Most roofing companies using products manufactured for the market will be downstream users.

Although, it is important to be mindful that some businesses who were classed as downstream users under EU REACH may find that they are classed as importers under UK REACH, if sourcing substances directly from the EU/EEA. This will mean they may have new registration responsibilities similar to the importer’s role.

Some in the roofing industry have been worried how the introduction of UK REACH would impact supply. However, the majority of chemical manufacturers and importers have extensive experience of supplying markets all over the world, adhering to numerous regulations.

Further resources:

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