Some firms will be allowed to miss the submission deadline for Europe-wide chemicals legislation

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has said that in ’exceptional situations’ some companies will not have to meet all the registration requirements of the all-encompassing Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (Reach) legislation.

With the first registration deadline less than two months away, the agency has outlined five situations in which it may show ’flexibility to registrants who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in difficulty submitting a full registration dossier by 30 November’. It may then set a ’reasonable deadline’ by which they must complete the dossier.


Dossiers have to be submitted by the end of November

Examples of such circumstances include: when the company has been hampered by a legal change such as a merger, or when it is relying on a lead registrant that has failed to complete safety data due to an unusual event such as criminal activity. 

Andreas Herdina, director of cooperation at the ECHA, says companies must contact the agency to benefit from the support, and that those that do will be judged on a case-by-case basis. He said that the decision was not about the ECHA giving companies an opportunity to ignore the cut-off date for registration: ’Everybody has to keep to the deadline - no one is allowed to miss it.’

Under the Reach regulation, companies must submit registration dossiers covering each use of the chemicals they sell in the EU. The forthcoming deadline is for bulk and hazardous chemicals. Consequently, it is expected to apply to relatively few substances compared with the 2013 and 2018 deadlines for substances manufactured or imported in lower volumes. ECHA is expecting 38,000 registration dossiers covering 5000 substances for this year’s deadline, says Herdina.

The move does not address the data-sharing problems that some companies have experienced, says Jo Lloyd, director of consultancy firm ReachReady. To avoid massive duplication of data, companies were arranged into groups and encouraged to share information. But some have struggled to agree on, for example, how much they should charge for the information, a problem often exacerbated by having to negotiate with direct competitors.

According to Lloyd, in some cases, the lead registrant - the group member responsible for gathering and submitting the information of behalf of everyone else - is taking advantage of the looming deadline by ’holding people to ransom’.

Lloyd says: ’Our recommendation to companies is do not rely on these new dispensations and try to meet your deadlines as best you can.’

Last week, the ECHA website was temporarily unavailable for several days due to damage to a broadband cable in Sweden, raising concerns about the agency’s ability to deal with the high volume of registration dossiers expected in the coming weeks. ’It doesn’t bode well for registrations submitted at the end of November if the website can be down for three days,’ says Lloyd. But Herdina says contingency plans are in place: ’We are prepared for any eventuality.’

Andrew Turley