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Sunday, 27 September 2020

Bureaucracy is spelt BUREAUCRAZY. REACH hits home, the era of the 200 plus page MSDS has arrived!

Friday, 4 November 2011 | Posted by: Peter A. Rieck, Marcmoor Ltd.

When can we all get back to the business of doing business?   It is thought that when you add it all up, regulation takes up 20% or more of a company’s time and resources. Should we follow the example of others and take to the streets, demonstrate, riot, use our redundant stock to paint slogans on placards and graffiti on government buildings?   I think not, but we have to find ways to deal with reducing the extraordinary burden that REACH and other legislation in the pipeline is imposing on the industry.   It seems that REACH has become the father of future generations of regulation.    Are you up to speed, do you have a business plan for life under REACH?

We are close to government, bureaucracy and regulation stifling our companies.   In future it will be impossible to innovate without grinding ones way through exposure scenarios, risk assessments, defining, categorising, ascertaining the life and availability of raw materials and then logging, checking, registering with numerous official bodies.   The size of the forms and their complexity, amount of data, tables and tests are staggering, the cost substantial.

Layer upon layer, every day something else. Nothing is beyond reach; even Nano materials have now been seized on and questioned despite long-term use.   2012, 2013 and 2018 will see more and more materials caught in the net, if suppliers have not already rationalised them out as they fall within the reducing tonnage limits from 1000t to eventually 5t.   Added to this is the requirement to register products with a poisonous content at poison centres across the continent.

As if this was not enough, some countries, such as France, have had a rush of blood to the head and introduced local variations and new labels to go with them.   Closely on the heals of all of this, come the Clean Air Regulations followed rapidly by the Construction Products Directive which overlaps (conflicts?) with it, both with local variations and yet more labelling, classification and testing.   And guess what, the Chinese regulations differ.

To cap it all there will be a dedicated Europe wide force of inspectors to ensure enforcement.   Throw in GHS, product identifiers, virtual disclosure of full formulations, add a twist of carbon foot printing then do it all again to cover ones customers and their uses and you have a recipe for a new, unimaginably super resource hungry, costly but unproductive business activity that will hit the bottom line.

No wonder we have entered the era of the 200 page plus Health and Safety data sheet and that is before a company takes its new product to market (and do not forget the label in the language of the country where the product will be used).   It is an extraordinary fact, but many MSDS sheets are becoming so large that they cannot be sent electronically because they are blocked by file size and anti-spam controls.   And yet in an act of self-preservation and an effort to avoid litigation every company has to keep an audit trail of every sale of every product to every customer, just in case it all goes wrong.

While organisations like CEPE are doing considerable and valiant work for the coatings and ink industry to easy the load, they are, however fighting an uphill battle to simplify and reduce the burden on individual companies.   That burden falls on every company, but heaviest on the small and medium sized companies whose resources are already stretched by recession and tough trading conditions.   There is now a very real danger that the cost of regulation may in fact accelerate consolidation in the European coatings industry and with that consolidation reduce competition and innovation.

If the industry is to preserve its variety, dynamism and inventiveness, it needs to give this issue a great deal of attention.   Companies will have to devise very comprehensive business plans that addresses the handling and management of compliance with regulation.   It will be increasingly important, as part of that plan to set up systems to deal with and if possible automate the activities involved; those systems must also be cost effective.   It is inevitable that setting up these systems will require substantial investment in facilities and resources, as well as trained and qualified staff.

Although every company may take a different approach, what will be important is the way that the management of compliance fits into the organisation.   If the compliance activity is isolated and left out on a limb it will add weight to the already heavy burden of the legislation.   If on the other hand it is integrated into the mainstream activities of the business, there may yet be a positive benefit to the company and a pay back to offset some of the cost, after all there must be some value in the vast quantities of information generated in the process of compliance and achieving "sustainability”.

Winning in future is going to require clear heads and open minds to plan and execute effective solutions to overcome the restraints of legislation.

Peter Rieck,

Marcmoor Limited & Peter Rieck Consulting              

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