An Introduction to the UK REACH Regulation

Learn more about the provisions of UK REACH, how it affects businesses, and the crucial steps needed to implement it properly.

handling chemical hazards - uk reach compliance

What is UK REACH?

UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) is a regulatory framework concerning the chemical substances that are manufactured in or imported into Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales). This regulation was modeled after the European Union (EU) REACH regulation, established post-Brexit, and introduced into UK law in 2021. It is also important to note that while Northern Ireland is part of the UK territory, the region remains under EU REACH.

As a regulatory framework, it primarily aims to ensure the safe use of chemicals to preserve human health and environmental safety. In line with this, UK REACH requires businesses to register the substances they intend to manufacture or import with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The registration process also involves evaluating safety, obtaining authorization for high-risk chemicals, and complying with restrictions on certain hazardous substances.

Overall, it is a regulation designed to foster innovation within the chemical industry while maintaining rigorous safety standards.


According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the REACH regulation was initiated by the EU to consolidate the various European Directives and Regulations for substances and was first enforced in 2007. It was adopted to improve the protection against the risks imposed by chemicals, while also promoting alternative methods for hazard assessment to decrease testing on animals.

In principle, REACH applies to all chemical substances. It’s not solely focused on those used in industrial processes; it also covers chemicals used in cleaning products, paints, clothing, and everyday items. As such, the regulation affects a lot of industries and businesses across the region.

Following the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the UK created a similar framework to accommodate the effects of Brexit and make it operable in a domestic context.

The UK’s REACH Approach

The HSE cites that the core principles of the EU REACH were retained in the UK version of the regulation. Thus, both frameworks essentially follow the same provisions. The key differences between the EU REACH and UK REACH are as follows:

  • Regulatory agency – With the UK REACH approach, the primary agency involved in the registration, evaluation, authorization, and restriction of chemicals is the HSE.
  • Kind of data sharing processes used – The UK also no longer has access to other European databases and may require businesses to submit information separately to the ECHA when dealing with other markets. Similarly, other European nations intending to export substances to Great Britain are required to comply with UK REACH provisions.
  • Registration requirements – The UK REACH implementation differs because it also covers regulations protecting from certain hazards while promoting the region’s sustainability efforts.

While the core idea of the regulation is implemented the same way, the UK approach also involves alignment with the conditions of REACH with England’s Environmental Improvement Plan and the UK’s 25-Year Environment Plan. The UK Government mentions that they have put a greater emphasis on phasing out persistent pollutants in favor of sustainable alternatives.

Steps in Implementing UK REACH

Considering the scope of UK REACH in fulfilling its role in the region’s environmental plans, proper implementation involves critical steps to ensure compliance to safeguard public health and the environment. By understanding these steps, stakeholders can navigate the regulatory landscape effectively and contribute to a safer chemical sphere in Great Britain.

steps in implementing UK REACH regulations

Steps in Implementing UK REACH

1. Identify Substances

The first step businesses need to accomplish is identifying all the chemical substances they manufacture or import into Great Britain in quantities of one ton or more annually. This involves creating an inventory of substances and providing their properties, uses, and potential risks.

Moreover, businesses need to be aware that certain substances are covered by more specific legislation and have tailored provisions under UK REACH. This includes the following:

  • Human and veterinary medicines
  • Food and foodstuff additives
  • Plant protection products and biocides
  • Isolated intermediates
  • Substances used for research and development

2. Register Substances

After identification, businesses must register these substances with the HSE. This process requires the submission of detailed information concerning the chemicals’ properties, hazards, uses, and handling guidelines. Typically, the data passed by businesses are collected from different studies and testing to gauge safety precautions.

3. Share Data with Governing Bodies

It is important to share data since some substances may be duplicates of existing ones. Not only does this ensure efficiency in the manufacturing and importing process, but it can also reduce costs for businesses since they can reference existing registrations.

Businesses can participate in Substance Information Exchange Forums (SIEFs) to collaborate on submitting joint registration dossiers. Additionally, UK businesses may also be required to share data because they no longer have access to the EU REACH databases (and vice versa).

4. Submit Information for Evaluation

Once the necessary documents have been submitted, the HSE evaluates the dossiers to verify that the information is complete and accurate. From there, they determine whether the substances can be used safely or if they pose a potential chemical hazard. This process may require businesses to provide additional information or clarification as the HSE completes its evaluation.

5. Ensure Compliance and Reporting

Since some substances are subject to specific restrictions under UK REACH, businesses must ensure they comply with any limitations or bans. This can involve modifying production processes, finding alternatives, or adhering to specific safety measures. Furthermore, they need to monitor the use of their substances, stay up-to-date with regulatory changes, and report any significant new information to the HSE.

For a smoother process of compliance and reporting, businesses can take advantage of digital solutions to make it easier to comply with the necessary guidelines. For example, they can utilize digital chemical risk assessment checklists to conveniently conduct inspections.

Create your own chemical risk assessment checklist

Build from scratch or choose from our collection of free, ready-to-download, and customizable templates.

Browse chemical risk assessment checklists

6. Continuously Monitor and Raise Awareness

Compliance with UK REACH is an ongoing process. They must ensure that their safety practices and documentation are continuously updated, while also monitoring their use of substances. Additionally, businesses can also initiate chemical safety training within their staff to ensure they are aware of UK REACH requirements and are updated on safe handling practices.

Challenges and Considerations

Adherence to UK REACH regulations presents a straightforward process but can pose some challenges for businesses. Compliance can be resource-intensive and may require them to allocate sufficient financial and human resources to manage the process.

Other challenges like data sharing, keeping up with regulatory changes, constant monitoring of substances, and supply chain communication pose potential threats to business success.

Fortunately, the UK government provides support initiatives for businesses through the Comply with UK REACH service. This makes it easier to submit and register information while providing businesses with supplementary resources to become more knowledgeable of the REACH guidelines.

In addition to this, businesses can also use digital platforms to streamline their inspections, data collection, and updates regarding substances.

Gabrielle Cayabyab
Article by

Gabrielle Cayabyab

SafetyCulture Content Specialist
Gabrielle Cayabyab is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her academic background in Creative Writing and extensive experience with writing for various types of content allows her to create high-quality articles for a broad range of topics. As a content specialist, her primary goal is to produce timely and purposeful material that advocates for workplace safety and ultimately helps businesses find opportunities to strengthen their operations.