An introduction to REACH

The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) Directive was introduced in 2007 to control the use of chemicals in the European Union. It applies to any chemical manufactured in, or imported into, the EU as a substance on its own, in a mixture of substances, or produced as a by-product of its processes, in quantities of one tonne or more per year.

In addition, since 2008, it has been a requirement of REACH that these chemicals must be registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

This Directive’s aim is to reduce the use of, and the risk of, chemicals which are proven to be a hazard to human health and the environment.

Who does REACH affect?

REACH impacts on the surface engineering and finishing industry as chemicals used in finishing and coating processes are included under this Directive. These include trichloroethylene used for surface cleaning prior to plating or anodising, various chemicals used in the electrolyte solution during the surface coating process, as well as any chemical by-product produced during the surface coating procedure.

Also included is hexavalent chromium and cadmium, which are listed as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), and therefore they have a restricted use and can only be used under authorisation due their toxicity and carcinogenic properties.


Complying with REACH and registering chemicals

In many cases, for companies working in the surface engineering industry, registration of the chemicals you use for your processes will be the responsibility of your supplier. However, if you are producing any chemical as a by-product through your surface finishing or heat treatment processes in quantities over a tonne per year, then you will have to register these substances yourself.

Guidance issued by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advises all companies affected by the REACH legislation to compile a comprehensive inventory of all chemicals used and in what quantities. This will enable you to work out your annual chemical use in tonnes to determine if you will be required to register them.

Members of the SEA can download a helpful factsheet on the REACH Directive setting out everything you need to know. If you would like to talk to one of our team about REACH, or membership, call us on 0121 237 1123, or email us at

Latest update / news:

The current situation of Trichloroethylene (TRI) under REACH raises many questions for companies operating a surface cleaning process with this well established high-performance solvent. As you may know, TRI was added to Annex XIV of REACH on April 21, 2013. We hope and intend that the attached FAQ goes someway to confirm the facts and answers any concerns about its future availability.

FAQ – REACH & Trichloroethylene

Contact the SEA

We are here to help!

If you are interested in joining the Surface Engineering Association or would like some further information about us that you cannot find on our website, then please complete the contact form and we will get back to you.


2 + 1 =