Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Distributors and users of chemicals: REACH responsibilities

Distributors and users of chemicals - REACH responsibilities

If you are a chemical user or distributor, you have responsibilities under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. A retailer is a distributor.

What you must do

Selling and distributing chemicals

If you distribute or sell chemical substances or mixtures which contain hazardous substances you must pass information on to your customers so that they known what the hazards are.

You must provide professional users with a safety data sheet (SDS) if the substance is classified as hazardous.

The SDS gives information on how you should handle, store and dispose of chemicals and what to do in the case of an accident.

If you receive a material without an SDS, contact your supplier to find out whether or not they have to provide one.

If the substance needs to be pre-registered or registered under REACH, you must check this before you start to supply or distribute the substance.

If you are a distributor, you may need to register substances under REACH if you import them from outside the European Union, on their own, in preparations or mixtures or in articles.

HSE: REACH – Guidance for distributors (PDF, 90K)

Using chemicals

You are a chemical user if, as a part of your work, you use:

  • any chemicals, preparations or mixtures
  • chemicals to formulate or blend preparations or mixtures
  • any chemicals, preparations or mixtures to produce articles (finished products).

If you use a chemical substance you must make sure that you:

  • identify and follow all appropriate safety measures identified by the chemical's SDS
  • only use the substance in a way that is covered by exposure scenarios contained in the SDS
  • comply with any restrictions or conditions of authorisation that have been placed on its use.

You should check that your suppliers register all the ways you use the chemicals they supply. This is to make sure that your supply of chemicals will not be disrupted. This may not be necessary if you only use the chemical in the way your supplier intended.

If you have an unusual use for a substance, you should provide your suppliers with details of how you intend to use the chemical. This will allow them to include this information in their registration.

You can choose not to give your suppliers this information if you feel it will compromise your business. In this case you must carry out your own chemical safety assessment. You will normally have to provide this information to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and any final users of the chemical.

ECHA: Chemical safety assessment

You should make an inventory or list of chemical substances that your business uses, supplies, manufactures or imports. This will help you understand your responsibilities, what you need to do and the impact REACH will have on your business activities.

HSE: Creating an inventory (PDF, 97K)

HSE: What REACH means for users of chemicals

Controls on supplying and using certain chemicals

REACH places controls on the supply and use of certain chemical substances that cause harm to human health or to the environment.

If you supply or use a chemical substance, on its own, in preparations or mixtures or in articles, you must make sure that you meet any specific controls that apply to it.

See the page in this guideline: REACH - substances of very high concern and restricted chemicals.

Further information

HSE: REACH guidance

European Chemicals Agency (ECHA): Factsheet - what you need to know

ECHA: REACH guidance

HSE: REACH - Contact us

HSE: Guidance for users

HSE: Guidance for distributors

HSE: Creating an inventory

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