AIHce 2010: Implementing Information Systems for REACH Compliance

During an American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) session in Denver, Marilyn Jackson, director of environment at IHS, stressed that global companies working to comply with REACH in Europe must focus on communication and information dissemination.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances) is a European regulation that requires manufacturers and importers to provide safety information about their chemicals.

“This is more than just a regulation,” Jackson said at AIHce. “This is a global trade.”

Jackson also described REACH as “an enormous and complex regulation” and explained that its intent was structured around health and environmental concerns, with a long-term goal of sustainable development.

“It’s not just chemicals, it’s also about how you mix those things together, how you formulate,” Jackson explained. “A pen, a computer, all these things now fall under REACH. It’s a very complex supply chain. It’s a lot of companies, a lot of chemicals, a lot of information. The ripple effect is one way to describe it.

“REACH really does cross all industry sectors,” she added. “Everyone’s fair game.”

Jackson suggested that companies approach this complex regulation by determining which pieces of information and data are most urgent to their operations. While companies then must gather the content, Jackson cautioned that having the information isn’t enough.

“You could be compliant today but tomorrow, it changes. So you need a system to understand what information is relative to your content,” she said.

Next, the company must receive and communicate the information down through the supply chain. Jackson also pointed out the opportunities inherent in looking ahead and considering what products potentially could become impacted in the supply chain. This could allow companies to innovate and substitute something that is not regulated by REACH.

“REACH is complex,” she reiterated. “There’s an opportunity and an obligation for each of us to get engaged. You really need to bring everyone together. It really impacts and requires involvement across your organization. At the end of the day, if you don’t have data, if you don’t manage it and don’t know what to do with it, you won’t be in the marketplace.”

Finally, Jackson pointed out that a company’s corporate value and brand is at stake if it is not in compliance with applicable regulations.

“If you’re a multi-national, global corporation, you’re probably on their watch list to see if [you’re] compliant. If you’re trying to address sustainability, you can’t do it unless you’re complying with REACH,” she explained. “Safety and security goes beyond just your workplace … [They extend to] your product and your end customer.”

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