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The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Regulations – Who needs to comply?

Ashleigh Williams
Aug 13, 2014

Although The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Regulations Phase 2 has been in place for 2 years now, I recognise that there are still some common areas of confusion. There have been cases where companies, including suppliers, manufacturers and distributors, are unsure as to who takes responsibility for RoHS compliance. Unfortunately, for some companies this still may not become clear when consulting the regulations and associated guidance documents. RoHS compliance is then further complicated by the aspect of “due diligence” and often it becomes a case of passing the buck. For many companies, the question still remains as to which part of the chain should ultimately take responsibility for RoHS compliance.

Most people will now recognise the CE mark on electrical equipment and know that this symbolises compliance with the relevant EU directives, including RoHS; however, is the CE mark and Declaration of Conformity enough to prove compliance?

Manufacturer obligations

Generally speaking, manufacturers have the most detailed of obligations, for example, putting together technical documentation, taking on responsibility for marking the product appropriately and preparing the Declaration of Conformity. However, one common mistake made is when a company re-brands a product (marks a product under their own trademark); in this scenario, the re-brander is considered the manufacturer and therefore has to fulfil the manufacturer's obligations. In addition, although authorised representatives help to relieve some of the administrative burden, it is worth noting that they do not take on legal responsibility, this remains with the manufacturer!

Other considerations

Importers and distributors must ensure that the relevant documentation is to hand should the National Measurement Office (NMO) decide to audit. They are also responsible for checking that manufacturers have completed all the relevant requirements; therefore, the responsibility of RoHS is in fact spread throughout the supply chain.

RoHS restricts the percentage of certain substances by weight per homogeneous material (including plastics, ceramics, metals, alloys, resins and coatings etc.) which, contrary to popular belief, means that suppliers of components may also need to be RoHS compliant. If their components are intended for use within an electrical/electronic product they need to ensure that the component does not contain more than the permitted levels of the restricted substances. Buyers can request that their suppliers are RoHS compliant, but they must apply due diligence as to whether the supplier’s declaration is enough or whether they need to conduct their own testing of the goods.

A good tip for buyers is simply to know to ask the right questions and to be specific when doing so. For example; is lead solder used in the factory and are the rework and repair areas kept separate to other operations? The latter scenario could result in unintentional contamination by lead or other restricted substances.

It is also worth bearing in mind additional components that you might not have considered. If the NMO were to audit, for example, would electrical tape pass the test? Have any soldering irons/tips been used which might throw up issues? Additional areas of concern could also include plastics such as PVC and coatings such as corrosion resistance etc.

In summary, it is wise to take a risk based approach towards RoHS compliance? For example, do you know where the risks lie? Do you have full visibility of your supply chain?

Compliance overseas

As RoHS is an EU directive, it is also worth being aware that there are other EU countries which will have the same laws; however, enforcement may vary. Other countries outside the EU for example China and Japan also have similar legislation; therefore, if you are importing or selling electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) overseas you may need to consider your obligations in those countries.

Want to learn more about RoHS? We are hosting an event in London on 10 May, ook you place online here. There are limited places available.

If you would like to talk about RoHS compliance, please give me a call on 01789 208 707 or email me at ashleigh.williams@valpak.co.uk

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.