The European Union (EU) Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive have many things in common: both are required for market access, are commonly managed by product and/or materials compliance departments, and restrict the use of potentially dangerous substances in all products sold.

But there are actually many differences between the two pieces of legislation, even though discussions about them often go hand-in-hand.

What Is RoHS Compliance?

The EU RoHS Directive seeks to limit the impact and exposure of specific hazardous substances to consumers and the environment, and reduce occupational exposure when products or equipment are manufactured, recycled, or sent for final disposal. To be EU RoHS compliant, companies must put measures in place to control the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and provide documentation demonstrating compliance with all aspects of this European Single Market directive.

Accordingly, electrical and electronic products and all accessories sold with them cannot be placed on the market if they contain RoHS-restricted substances above maximum concentration limits at the homogeneous level. However, RoHS does include exemptions that allow some restricted substances to be used in certain very technical and specific applications if a suitable substitute is not available on the market or that substitute has a greater environmental impact. The use of any exemption must still be disclosed when making declarations of RoHS compliance.

What Is REACH Compliance?

To achieve EU REACH compliance, companies must demonstrate evidence of a robust, ongoing compliance program with incremental improvement, which includes the collection of supplier data and documentation.

Data required to comply with the REACH Regulation, which came into effect in mid-2007, centers around Candidate List substances of very high concern (SVHCs), certain authorized substances used in EU manufacturing (Annex XIV), and restricted chemicals (Annex XVII), which are listed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) at the request of member states or the European Commission.

Companies must audit their products and parts against the substances that are restricted from being manufactured, marketed, or used across the EU, and meet restriction conditions for entry. If substances are on the Authorisation List, companies must gain appropriate authorization in order to use these substances in the EU.

The Difference Between REACH & RoHS

Both the EU REACH Regulation and EU RoHS Directive aim to reduce and restrict substances that can be deemed harmful to humans and the environment, but there are some key differences.

Scope A horizontal framework, applicable to all parts and products sold in the EU, with some exemptions, such as radioactive materials. A vertical sector-specific law that focuses on all electronic and electrical equipment, with a small list of specific exclusions, such as the means of transport and equipment used solely for national security purposes.
Substances Requires written disclosure of all SVHCs (currently a list numbering 209) in products and packaging. Restricts the concentration of 10 specific substances in EEE products.
Evaluation Evaluated at the article level. Evaluated at the homogenous material level.
Legal Is a regulation, which is legally-binding across all EU member states. Is a directive, which means each member state must put it into national law, but it must have the same impact and effect across all territories.

There is some overlap between the two pieces of legislation. When a substance that is already covered under the RoHS Directive is added to the REACH SVHC Candidate List, enforcement authorities make an effort to ensure there is no conflict between requirements and that controls are consistent. There is a common understanding that RoHS should be given priority to regulate all issues pertaining to the use of substances in EEE.

Unfortunately, one more thing both REACH and RoHS have in common is the risk associated with non-compliance. Non-compliance with either law can result in reputational damage, loss of market access, recall of goods, loss of revenues, and/or fines.

Assent helps companies manage their REACH and RoHS risk. To learn more about Assent’s product compliance supply chain data management solutions, contact our experts today.

Raj Takhar
Subject Matter Expert, Materials Management & Chemical Reporting

Raj helps companies meet their product compliance challenges in an ever-changing regulatory landscape. He specializes in product compliance, chemical reporting, and program implementation in Europe.

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