REACH Chemicals

Reach Chemicals – what are they and how do I comply with the regulations?

For companies working in the surface finishing sector, there are a number of UK and EU regulations, guidelines and legislation that govern how they go about their daily operations.  Included in this long list are the REACH (Restriction, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) Regulations.

What are these regulations?

This set of regulations controls the use of substances that have a risk to either health or the environment.  This applies to substances used for industrial purposes and for use in domestic situations (cleaning products, paint etc.).   In order to comply, companies are required to identify and manage the risks associated with the substances that they produce, and as a result, then register them with the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA).

Currently these regulations relate to those chemicals which are manufactured or imported into the EU as a substance on their own, in a mixture of substances, or produced during industrial processes, in quantities of one tonne or more per year.

The impact on the surface engineering industry

For companies working in the surface engineering industry, the onus of registration will be with 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 annum, then you will have to register these substances yourself.

What chemicals need to be registered?

Chemicals such as trichloroethylene used for surface cleaning prior to plating or anodising, chemicals  used in the electrolyte solution during the surface coating process, and any chemical by-product produced during the surface coating procedure are subject to registration.

Some chemicals have been identified as substances of very high concern (SVHC).  These have a restricted use and can only be used under authorisation.  Both hexavalent chromium and cadmium fall into this category due to their toxicity and carcinogenic properties.

The ECHA has published a candidate list of substances for inclusion in REACH, amongst these substances is boric acid.  You can find the candidate List of substances of very high concern for authorisation on the ECHA website.

Where can I go for help?

Members of the Surface Engineering Association (SEA) will find helpful information on REACH Regulations on our website.  If you would like to talk to someone about the regulations and how they affect you, please telephone us on 0121 237 1123 or email us at