“Safety first” may be a common phrase for companies in the manufacturing industry, but that doesn’t mean it can be taken for granted. Keeping the work environment safe by reducing hazards that can cause to injuries, death, and property damage are essential to preventing loss of life and limb, as well as avoiding losses related to such incidents.
Safety is a top priority even with heavily automated production facilities where some (if not most) of the work are handled by machines that utilize various types of motion systems. This is why companies have to comply with regulations like the RoHS and REACH. What are the basic tenets of these regulations, and what do they mean for your company?
RoHS and REACH in a nutshell
RoHS or Restriction of Hazardous Substances is a directive (a set of recommendations) adopted by the European Union, which is designed to help companies restrict the use of certain chemicals that can be harmful to both people and the environment. Hazardous substances restricted by RoHS include the following: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated ether.
To comply with RoHS, your company’s electronic and electrical equipment should not contain more than 0.1% (1000 ppm) of the restricted chemicals. Cadmium and mercury are even more restricted, being limited to just .01% (100 ppm) of a product or equipment’s weight.
On the other hand, REACH or the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals is a European Union regulation (i.e. it is enforced instead of merely being recommended) that is imposed on companies and manufacturers in order for the union to exercise a more thorough level of control over the production and use of potentially hazardous chemical substances. REACH targets a wider scope of chemicals, including known mutagens, carcinogens, biotoxins, and other toxic substances in general.
Companies that deal with at least one ton of these chemicals per year of operation have to register the substances to the European Chemical Agency. Once registered, it’s up to the agency to evaluate, authorize, or restrict the use of this chemicals. In many instances, companies may be asked to use safer substances as an alternative to restricted substances.
How is RoHS different from REACH? To put it simply, RoHS is mostly concerned about the amount of hazardous substances in your hardware. REACH requires far more effort on your company’s part because it applies to anything that involves potentially hazardous substances.
What Does This Mean for Your Company?
Companies in the manufacturing industry today rely on plenty of electronic and electrical solutions to stay operational. That automatically puts your company under the scope of the RoHS and REACH. Computers, organizers, automated sensors, cameras, motion control systems – everything that’s electronic or electrical in nature has to be RoHS and REACH compliant in certain jurisdictions. This may not be an issue for many electronic devices today, but motion control systems are a special case since they are more likely to have higher concentrations of these products.
If your operation relies heavily on automation and motion solutions, the best you can do is use components that are already RoHS and REACH compliant in the first place. Otherwise, replacing non-compliant components of your production line with certified hardware is a good start. For example, Dover Motion’s industrial-grade linear stages that are used in microscopes, automatic liquid handling machines, and robotic equipment can be manufactured so that they meet the standards set by RoHS and REACH.
To find out if your motion control systems are RoHS and REACH compliant, check for each component or product model and see if they are certified. Keep in mind that some devices and components must have both RoHS and REACH certifications or they may need to be replaced if you want to be fully compliant with these regulations.
Complying with RoHS and REACH helps protect your company from the risk of contamination and other problems related to hazardous substances. In addition, you’ll also be able to minimize the effect of these substances on the environment. This means compliance is also a way of doing your part in making the world a safer and less polluted place.