What about safer alternatives?
REACH, CLP and the BPR promote the replacement of the most hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. On ECHA's website you can check if the chemicals you use are hazardous.
Carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and substances of equivalent concern are known as "substances of very high concern" (SVHC). SVHCs may be included in a list called the Candidate List. From there they can move to the Authorisation List, meaning that they can only be placed on the market for specific authorised uses. If the substance you use in the workplace is included in the Candidate or Authorisation List, it means that sooner or later it will probably need to be replaced by a safer alternative. You can check this on ECHA's website.
One example of interest to workers is MDA (4,4'- Diaminodiphenylmethane). This is used as a curing agent in polymers and a hardener in epoxy resins and adhesives, with high exposure of workers particularly in smaller companies. Although it is on the Authorisation List, no manufacturer or user has applied to have its use authorised within the deadline, which means that for those uses identified, it will have to be removed from the market after 21 August 2014.
The number of substances on the Candidate List is growing. It is updated twice a year – in June and in December. Your employer should be aware if any substances you handle are included on this list. This applies to the substance on its own, in a mixture, or in an article, and creates additional obligations for your employer.
The Authorisation procedure aims to progressively replace substances of very high concern with suitable alternatives as soon as technically and economically feasible. Authorisation is a temporary measure, to make sure that the risks from substances of very high concern are properly controlled until the substances are replaced by safer alternatives.
Hazardous substances can also be restricted in terms of their manufacture, placing on the market or use. Restrictions under REACH are adopted when risks are unacceptable and EU-wide action is needed to protect consumers, workers or the environment. Restrictions apply for example, to asbestos, lead compounds in paints and mercury in measuring devices.
Biocidal Products Regulation
One of the aims of the new Biocidal Products Regulation is to exclude active substances that are, for example, carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. It also promotes the replacement of biocidal products that contain active substances that could cause, for example, asthma or other respiratory problems. These products will not be authorised and will be replaced with safer alternatives.
Ask your employer
If you see that any of the substances used in your workplace are on the Candidate List, are intended for restriction or appear on the Candidate for Substitution List (BPR), urge your employer to consider replacing them with safer ones.
This will improve safety at your work and could be beneficial for your business.
Take a look at the substitution portal for some ideas that may help your company find safer alternatives.