3.1  REACH and CLP

REACH is a system for the registration, evaluation, and admittance of chemical substances manufactured in or imported into the European Union. The acronym REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals. REACH is an EU directive (1907/2006) implemented to better protect human and environmental health from the potential risks of chemical substances, while simultaneously improving the competitive power of the chemical industry in the EU. The directive also promotes the development of alternative methods for the risk assessment of substances, partly for purposes of reducing the need for animal testing.

The working method is as follows:

  • Inventory applied substances through an obligatory manufacturer or importer registration.
  • Evaluate the risks of using these substances on human beings and the environment.
  • Use the evaluation as a basis to permit or decline (authorise) the use of these substances.

REACH, therefore, does not prohibit the use SVHC/CMR substances; instead, it is a system that aims to control that use.

Users may submit for an authorisation as follows:

  • Notify REACH of one’s intent to apply for authorisation, in case of manufacturers, importers, or downstream users.
  • Submit an application and pay a fee.
    • Chemical safety report.
    • Alternatives analysis.
    • Replacement plant.
    • Socioeconomic analyse.
  • Compliance audit of the application by RAC and SEAC (article 62).
  • Public consultation on the use to which the application refers.
  • Design recommendations by RAC and SEAC.
  • Notes on design recommendations by the applicant.
  • Adoption of the final recommendations by RAC and SEAC.
  • EU-decision.
  • Notify downstream users (article 66).
  • Evaluation.
  • Submit new application 18 months before end of authorisation period.

Although REACH is intended to encourage downstream users to have their usage authorised, it appears that this procedure is so costly and demands such detailed knowledge of the substances, that REACH registration is only manageably by major businesses. This has led to the creation of consortiums, and various importers and/or manufacturers and/or formulators taking the application initiative.

The CLP directive (1272/2008) safeguards the clear notification of employees and consumers in the EU regarding the dangers of chemical substances in the EU through the format and labelling of chemical substances. CLP stands for Classification, Labelling and Packaging. The directive brings the EU-system of classification, labelling, and packaging of chemical substances more in line with the globally harmonised system (GHS). The expectation is that this will help to facilitate global trade and the harmonised publication of risk information regarding chemical substances, and promote legislative efficiency. It is a supplement on the Directive regarding the registration, assessment, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) from 2006 (EC no. 1907/2006), and replaces the current Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EEG) and the Dangerous Preparations Directive (1999/45/EG).

Although these directives do result in obligations for applicators, they are generally product-related and mainly a responsibility shared along the chain, usually leading to the suppliers being held accountable.

More information is available at:

3.2  BRZO

On 10 July 1976, disaster struck in Seveso (Italy). A malfunctioning obsolete valve released a large amount of TCCD (a dioxin) into the environment. Animal deaths numbered 3,300 and many people suffered long and skin complaints. Moreover, people exposed to TCCD run a substantially higher than normal risk of developing cancer in the long run.

For more information, see:

This disaster led directly to the ‘Seveso-directive’, which has been updated several times since:

  • The Seveso-directive or post-Seveso-directive (officially: Directive 82/501/EG) is a European directive implemented on 24 June 1982, intended to improve the safety of locations carrying large amounts of dangerous substances.
  • On 9 December 1996, the Seveso-directive was updated to the Seveso-II-directive, which was subsequently adjusted on 16 December 2003.
  • The Seveso-II-directive was replaced by the Seveso-III-directive on 4 July 2012. In the Netherlands, this directive was implemented through the BRZO-legislation and accompanying ministerial decree BRZO (Directive on Risks and Severe Accidents).

A BRZO-business is one that carries large amounts of dangerous substances over a certain benchmark value. These businesses are subject to the Besluit Risico’s Zware Ongevallen 2015 (BRZO-2015). In the Netherlands, over 400 businesses fall under BRZO-regulations; these businesses vary from complex chemical industry to relatively uncomplicated storage companies for certain types of dangerous substances.

Whether a business is subject to BRZO-legislation depends on the nature and amount of the dangerous substances located there.

BRZO distinguishes between two types of businesses: PBZO businesses (Heavy Accident Prevention Policy) and VR businesses (Safety Report). The distinction is based on whether the businesses a low or high benchmark. Businesses that exceed the high benchmark are classified a VR business; businesses that exceed the low benchmark are classified a PBZO business.

An initiative from the chemical industry, but which has since been implemented much more broadly, is ‘Veiligheid Voorop’ (Safety First); an active platform for sharing knowledge. Vereniging ION is a member of this platform as well.

For more information on BRZO:

3.3  Arbowet

The Dutch Working Conditions Act, known as the Arbeidsomstandighedenwet in full or the Arbowet in short, contains rules for employers and employees to promote the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees and self-employed entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the Arbowet aims to prevent work-related illness and accidents.

The Arbowet is a framework law. This means that it does not contain concrete rules, but rather lists general provisions and directives regarding working condition policy in businesses.

The Arbeidsomstandighedenwet comprises three sections:

  • The Arbeidsomstandighedenbesluit (Arbo decree)
  • The Arbeidsomstandighedenregeling (Arbo regulation)
  • The Beleidsregels arbeidsomstandighedenwetgeving (Arbo policy rules)

Since 1 July 2005, the Arbowet was updated to better comply with European Framework Directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (89/391/EEG). For more information, see:

3.4  Dangerous substances

The definition of dangerous substances (or dangerous materials) is: “substances that may be harmful to the health and safety of employees”. They may be part of packaged products, such as detergents, sealants, paints, or lubricants; but they can also occur as a result of work activities, such as in the case of welding fumes, wood or quartz dust, and diesel engine emissions.

Dangerous substances can be toxic, aggressive, irritant, flammable, carcinogenic, intoxicating, or explosive. They may also affect reproductive ability. The extent to which the aforementioned effects occur depends on the type of substance, the degree of exposure (dose), and other circumstances. Health-related complaints may occur immediately, or even aften several years. They may also worsen with prolonged exposure. Dangerous substances can occur in virtually all work environments, such as in the cleaning, building, heavy, agricultural, healthcare, and chemical industries, to name but a few.

Employers are required to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employers. As part of the Risico-Inventarisatie en -Evaluatie (RI&E) – a risk inventory and evaluation procedure – employers must also assess exposure to dangerous substances, for example by inventorying to which substances employees are exposed, and to what extent.

In cases where exposure exceeds certain benchmarks, measures must be taken. Specific conditions of use exist for all dangerous substances.

Employees who work with dangerous substances are required to follow the conditions of use carefully, along with any supplemental instructions by the employer. A product’s packaging indicates which dangerous substances it contains. The danger symbol indicates the type of risk present. The H (R- and S-) and P-lines on the label offer additional indication on a substance’s risk properties and related safety recommendations. The supplier of a product with a danger symbol is required to provide a safety data sheet (SDS), which lists detailed information on the product and any risks to health and safety that may occur as a result of its use. The degree of risk can be determined through measurements or data from relevant literature for both packaged and non-packaged dangerous substances.

Incidentally, Vereniging ION is not a supporter of the term “dangerous substances”. All substances, even water, table salt, or air, are dangerous under the right conditions. Rather, we refer to substances that may put one’s health at risk if used inexpertly by the terms of SVHC (Substances of Very High Concern) or CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Reprotoxic).

3.5  Protective measures

Inspectorate SZW argues that ‘Exposure is not part of the deal’. Exposure must be prevented where possibly, but must certainly always remain below the benchmark value.

When taking measures to prevent exposure, or to limit exposure as much as possible, the employer is required to follow the occupational health strategy roadmap. This means that measures must be taken at the highest possible level. Only if a measure cannot be taken at a particular level for technical, organisational, or economic reasons is the employer allowed to take measures at one level lower.

We work in accordance with the STOP-principle:

  • Substitute
  • Technical measures
  • Organisational measures
  • Personal protective equipment

In order of priority, measures rank as:

  1. Source measures
  2. Prevent or limit substance emissions
  3. Collective measures
  4. Individual measures
  5. Personal protective equipment

More information: