Industry not prepared for REACH

04 August 2008

More than 40% of manufacturing and purchasing personnel have no understanding of the REACH regulation as it affects their companies, according to an IPC survey.

The trade association states that the same holds true for nearly one-third of senior management and 29% of engineering personnel. Also, some 28% of environment, health and safety personnel have no understanding of REACH’s impact.

The EU legislation concerning REACH took effect on 1 June 2007 and gives greater responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and provide safety information on the substances. In contrast to RoHS, which IPC states covers a narrow scope of substances in electronic products encompassing about 100 different chemicals, REACH covers substances in nearly all applications; some 30,000 chemicals. While RoHS can address entire classes of substances at a time, REACH addresses them each individually. Where RoHS requires supplier-to-customer communications, the REACH regulation makes bi-directional communication throughout the supply chain imperative.

“REACH will have a far-reaching effect on any company that buys sells or uses chemicals,” said Tony Hilvers, vice president of industry programmes for IPC. “Inevitably, all companies that use chemicals or make products that contain chemicals will be affected… and that pretty much sums up the entire electronics supply chain. The survey clearly indicates that our industry is woefully unprepared for the hit it’s about to take,” added Hilvers.

The electronic survey, sent to executives throughout the electronic interconnect supply chain in North America and Europe, reveals that even with a deadline for pre-registration of substances quickly approaching, only 18.3% of companies have identified and/or inventoried all substances in their products. It is also claimed that only 60.5% of chemical supplier respondents are planning to register or pre-register substances.

In order to help electronics companies prepare for REACH, IPC has scheduled a number of programmes, including a REACH Critical Update Webcast on pre-registration issues for PCB and EMS suppliers. A number of sessions and meetings on REACH and other environmental issues will also take place at IPC Midwest Conference and Exhibition next month.

Furthermore, IPC has launched a REACH Supply Chain Task Force comprising of representatives from the OEM, EMS, PCB and supplier industries so as to establish a method by which to address the impacts of REACH.

In a recent presentation to the task force, Design Chain Associates’ President Michael Kirschner re-iterated a warning that electronics executives should: “As completely as possible, know what chemical substances your product is made of and with… You will eventually be held responsible for every molecule of your product.”

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