Basic chemicals management– a must for all
Follow the REACH requirements and best safety practices when purchasing chemicals:
1. Safety data sheet
- Ensure your supplier provides a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the chemicals you purchase. However, this is only legally required if the substance or mixture is classified hazardous according to legislation. If you do not get one, request it from your supplier (or learn that the chemical is not hazardous).
You may receive the SDS as hard copy or in electronic format from the suppliers. Ensure that the SDS or an extract of the hazard and handling information is directly accessible to the workers who may use it and hence be exposed to it.
- Review SDS before purchasing
Check if the chemicals you intend to purchase have specific requirements for storage (e.g. an explosion-proof refrigerator, specific shelf-life or expiration dates) or application (e.g. strict requirements to use a substance in closed systems). Ensure that any preconditions for storage and use exist in the company or identify alternative chemicals with less strict requirements.
2. Registration number
- Ensure substances you purchase that are to be registered* under REACH are actually registered (registration number assigned according to Article 20(3) of regulation).
Find the registration number in the Safety Data Sheet of substances and mixtures in Section 1. If no registration numbers are indicated for an individual substance or the ingredients of a mixture, ask your supplier why no such number is indicated.
In ECHA's database on registered substances you can also look up which substances are registered and by which suppliers.
3. Regulated chemicals
- Check if the use of the chemical you want to purchase is restricted
You may only use substances within the conditions of any existing restriction. Suppliers must include respective information in Section 15 of the safety data sheet. Most restrictions are included in Annex XVII of the REACH regulation (list of restricted substances with indications on which uses (e.g. in specific mixtures or articles) they are not allowed for on the European market.
Restricted substances have dangerous properties and hence, you may consider substituting them with less harmful alternatives, if possible.
- Check if the chemical you want to purchase needs authorisation
The use of the most hazardous substances, so called “Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)” should eventually be ended in the EU. If a substance is included on the so called “Authorisation list”, its use is prohibited, unless an authorisation is granted by the EU Commission for a specific use of that substance.
- Check the Safety Data Sheet, Section 15, for respective information or identify, if a substance or ingredient in a mixture is included in the Authorisation List. If this is the case, try to substitute (Substitution | Fitreach) it with a safer alternative. Further information on substitution is provided by the SUBSPORT web-portal.
If your supplier got an authorisation for the substance use he must communicate a registration number and the conditions of that authorisation in the safety data sheet. If you cannot substitute, check if you comply with all these conditions. If you continue use, you also must notify the ECHA thereof.
4. Minimize chemical use
- Identify unnecessary uses of chemicals, inefficient uses and avoid long storage periods
Reducing use amounts of chemicals is a win-win situation, as costs are saved as well as environmental and health risks. Assess your processes and check if you carry out e.g. unnecessary cleaning steps or if chemicals you use could be omitted (disinfection is not always required, fragrances may be superfluous etc.).
It may be an indication that your processes could be optimised if you generate large amounts of (chemical) wastes. Dosage systems may be improved or the point of quality control changed resulting in better material use efficiency and hence potentials to save input and output materials.
Chemicals may age when stored. Furthermore, storing chemicals increase the risks of accidents. Hence, smart purchasing that avoids the need to store chemicals over longer time periods may help reducing risks.
5. Use less toxic or less hazardous alternatives if you can
- Reducing the use of (very) dangerous chemicals can improve your performance in many ways
The use of dangerous chemicals may be disadvantageous in many ways, e.g. creating costs for workers protection and disposal of (hazardous) waste, fees for waste water treatment and, last but not least, a loss of consumer trust due to lower product safety and/or a lack of marketing arguments, including possibilities to apply for eco-labels.
Alternatives to dangerous chemicals may be other, less hazardous chemicals but could also consist in process or product design changes or simply omission of the chemical. Sometimes it is not so difficult to find alternatives and implement substitution.
6. Chemical inventory
- Keep track of what you use in a chemicals inventory
A chemicals inventory is a (simple or complex) database listing all chemicals used, including all relevant information on its hazards and safe handling, its suppliers and how and for what it is used in the company. It is essential tool for structuring chemicals management.
* Some substances do not need to be registered under REACH, such as substances placed on the market in low volumes, polymers or and substances which are generally deemed to be harmless.