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Manufacturers remain unaware how they are affected by new EU laws governing hazardous chemicals, leaving directors at risk of unlimited fines or even prison sentences.
That is the stark warning issued today alongside a survey of 250 companies that found “worryingly low” recognition of the full scope and significance of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) regulations on the use of certain substances.
Conducted by manufacturers’ organisation EEF, the poll reveals 20 per cent of companies think REACH is not applicable to them and a further 30 per cent say it is not important to their business.
This view is particularly prevalent among small companies – only 31 per cent of businesses with turnovers under £2m thought REACH directly affects them, compared to 59 per cent of manufacturers with turnovers of £50m or more. And even where smaller companies were aware of REACH, half were not monitoring developments in the legislation.
Many of these substances are commonly used in manufacturing processes, forcing companies to identify safer alternatives or risk finding themselves in breach of the law. If companies feel there is still a strong case to continue using the chemical, they must appeal to the European Commission by this February for an exemption, although the process can cost anywhere between €50,000 and €200,000.
“REACH continues to be the ‘elephant in the room’ for many companies who are either unaware of the implications or still believe it is a chemicals-only issue,” he said in a statement.
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