REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of chemicals. REACH (EC) 1907/2006 is a European Union regulation that affects the supply and use of substances. It came into operation on 1st June 2007, and replaced a number of European Directives and Regulations with a single system.

REACH and EU Exit

UK REACH, the UK’s independent chemicals regulatory framework, became law on 1 January 2021. Anyone importing, manufacturing or distributing chemicals in GB and/or Northern Ireland needs to understand how the UK REACH and EU REACH rules might affect their business since 1 January 2021.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has released draft guidance on UK REACH. The intention of this notification is to provide chemical stakeholders with an indication as to changes they may need to have made since 1st January 2021. It includes draft guidance (subject to legislative changes) on NI-GB trade in chemicals.

What does REACH do?

The EU REACH Regulation 2006 ("the REACH Regulation") aims to:

  • provide a high level of protection for human health and the environment;
  • make manufacturers and importers responsible for managing risks;
  • allow the free movement of substances on the EU market;
  • enhance the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry;
  • promote alternative methods for the assessment of hazards.

The REACH Regulation:

  • requires manufacturers and importers of chemical substances to gather hazard information and assess risks;
  • can require the use of some particularly high-risk substances to be authorised;
  • restricts the marketing and use of certain hazardous chemicals and mixtures.

Who and what does REACH apply to?

Most businesses will be affected by REACH in some way. REACH affects any business of any size that:

  • manufactures chemical substances
  • imports chemical substances
  • distributes chemical substances
  • sells chemical substances
  • uses chemical substances

1st June 2018 was the final deadline for the registration of phase-in substances. By that date, any substance that has been pre-registered must be registered if manufacture/import is to continue in quantities of 1 tonne per annum (tpa) or more.

Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs)

Under the REACH Regulation, some substances have properties that are deemed to be of very high concern. These substances present particularly high risks to human health, or the environment, or both. Members States nominate SVHCs to be added to a candidate list for Authorisation.


ECHA may transfer priority chemicals from the SVHC candidate list to an authorisation list (Annex XIV of the REACH Regulation) after careful consideration of the substance’s use and associated risks.

Authorisation will only be granted to industry where it is shown that risks will be adequately controlled or socio-economic benefits of the use outweigh the risks.

The UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum provides information on REACH Authorisations on its web-site.

The following guidance documents shown are for use by small and medium businesses (SMEs) and can be viewed in PDF format:


Some chemical substances are restricted under the REACH Regulation(Annex XVII).

A restriction may:

  • Place concentration limits for its use or ban an activity entirely.
  • Apply to the marketing of a chemical substance, or how it is used, or both.
  • Apply to all uses or to specific uses.

Restrictions are not subject to tonnage thresholds – you must comply with a restriction no matter what tonnage you market or use.

Role of the enforcing authorities

The enforcing authorities for REACH provisions are the:

​​The enforcing authorities will take enforcement action relating to the offence of breaching marketing and use restrictions contained in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation – where the chemical in question poses threat to the environment. 

The other enforcing authorities will also support the Competent Authority - HSE/HSENI by checking for offences relating to using a chemical in Annex XIV of the REACH Regulation without proper authorisation, or failure to follow the conditions of an authorisation.


Further information on REACH regulations can be viewed at the following links:

Business Sector

An external contract entitled ‘Analysis of business sectors producing, marketing or using chemicals in Northern Ireland’ was assigned to PricewaterhouseCoopers and completed in December 2006. The project outputs are accessible through the link below:

A further study has been commissioned by DAERA and completed in early 2023 by environmental consultants WSP UK Limited, with the assistance of RSM UK. It is named:


EU REACH continues to apply in Northern Ireland.

EU REACH can apply if you are manufacturing chemicals or purchasing chemicals from GB or outside of the EU to distribute, sell or use in NI and/or the EU.

You can find out more about EU REACH from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) by visiting: Understanding REACH - the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Latest information

Information on a range of topical issues can be accessed via the following ECHA links:

For more information on chemicals, click on the REACH tab at the ECHA's Information on Chemicals page.

Further information on REACH

If you would like any further information please contact the Chemicals and Industrial Pollution Policy Branch (CIPP) of DAERA.

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