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27/02/2019

Managing Dangerous Substances: Safety precautions for worker’s protection

Information on the safe use of chemicals is key for workers’ protection. It therefore needs to be communicated in clear language and in a standardised format.

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Managing Dangerous Substances: Safety precautions for worker’s protection

Under Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), companies must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. In this regard, manufacturers and importers of chemical substances in Europe have to determine how the substances can be used safely throughout the supply chain, and are required to perform a Chemical Safety Assessment for all uses of the substance to derive appropriate Risk Management Measures. Formulators of adhesives and sealants, as downstream users of chemicals, receive the outcome of the Chemical Safety Assessments performed by the suppliers of their mixtures’ ingredients through the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and Exposure Scenario (ES). 

In other words, according to REACH, suppliers of hazardous products have an obligation to explain to their customers how to use their chemicals safely. SDS and ES are the ‘tools’ used for this duty, because they define the conditions under which such products can be handled safely. However, due to the technical nature of these documents, the complexity of the supply chains and the lack of standardised formats for communication of ‘safe use’, it is not always easy to identify appropriate Risk Management Measures (RMMs) for the safe use of a product, for example an adhesive or a sealant. Therefore, it would benefit all end-users to have adequate RMMs for the safe use of products properly communicated to them, in clear language and in a standardised format.

Solving the problem with SUMIs

This is exactly the problem that a new type of document called a SUMI (Safe Use of Mixtures Information) has been designed to solve. Member States, ECHA and industry have worked together to develop a simplified approach to improve the communication of the safe use of chemical mixtures in the supply chain. As a result, SUMIs were created by the Downstream Users of Chemicals Co-ordination (DUCC) group to be supplied as an annex to the SDS. Based on Exposure Scenarios, SUMIs are two-page documents which summarise relevant safe use information in a convenient, standardised format for industrial and professional users of the chemical products. They include operating conditions and risk management measures for a range of mixtures in a specified area of use. To help users quickly and easily understand the safe use conditions (for example, should gloves, goggles or respiratory protection be used), a range of freely-available pictograms has been used. FEICA and other downstream associations have developed standardised SUMIs to communicate to end-users the safe use information for typical uses with their sectors.

SUMIs complement EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Campaign

Communication of relevant, easy-to-understand information throughout the supply chain is at the core of REACH. Safety Data Sheets are the main means to achieve this. SUMI templates are a new addition to the toolbox. Since SUMIs provide the “product’s safe use information” in a simplified and tailored manner for workers, they assist in implementing Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) requirements. Therefore, information from SUMIs can be used by employers to develop workplace instructions because it complements the OSH requirements and the information provided in the product’s label and SDS. However, it is important to note that SUMIs do not replace the SDS or any other relevant safety information that the employer is responsible for communicating to employees. SUMIs are therefore an important element in the interaction between REACH and OSH, and can be used to communicate safety advice downstream to customers and end-users. FEICA has published a series of SUMIs for professional end-users of adhesives and sealants. As an OSHA partner for the Healthy Workplaces Campaign, FEICA is proud to have made this contribution to help protect workers.

More information on the FEICA SUMIs and how to use them can be found on the FEICA website: http://www.feica.eu/our-priorities/key-projects/reach.aspx.