The REACH regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006) has since June 1, 2007 regulated the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals in the European Union. REACH means that comprehensive data must be recorded regarding chemicals. REACH places high demands on manufacturers, importers and users of chemical products. For example, all substances that are marketed in Europe must be registered and evaluated if the annual quantity reaches or exceeds one metric ton per manufacturer or importer. The amount of testing required per substance depends mainly on the quantity manufactured or imported and the expected risks involved in its use.
The European authorities may then regulate particularly hazardous substances by introducing an authorization obligation (substances subject to authorization in Annex XIV) or a restriction (restricted substances in Annex XVII). The conditions under which further use of these substances is possible will be precisely stipulated or restricted.
Not least, REACH aims to ensure that information on chemicals is actively passed on within the supply chain. Forwarding of safety data sheets is therefore mandatory for hazardous substances and mixtures, and product suppliers must inform their customers in the EU if a product contains a substance of very high concern (a so-called REACH candidate) at levels of more than 0.1%. The European Court of Justice made it clear in a ruling dated September 10, 2015 that this mass percentage must be calculated with respect to the weight of each individual article (referred to colloquially as a component) and not with respect to the weight of the overall product supplied.
REACH is a major step forward in environmental and health protection in Europe. The new knowledge that has been gained about chemical substances, particularly their long-term effects such as carcinogenic or teratogenic properties, and risk management based on this should in future ensure a higher level of protection for humans and the environment.
REACH at Rheinmetall
All Rheinmetall companies have set up internal processes to ensure that all REACH requirements are met during production and that only REACH-compliant products are supplied. Furthermore, in taking over the chair of the REACH working group at Bundesverband der Deutschen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie e.V. [Federation of German Security and Defense Industries], Rheinmetall is proactively promoting the implementation of the REACH regulation throughout the German defense industry.
The individual companies in the Rheinmetall Group are affected to different degrees by REACH requirements; obligations vary depending on product portfolio and clientele.
In the Automotive sector, the information obligation towards EU customers is particularly important. Like all EU companies, Rheinmetall Automotive companies must disclose which components contain more than 0.1% REACH candidates. IMDS is used as standard for this throughout the automotive industry as a global shared IT tool. IMDS was developed jointly by Audi, BMW, Daimler, DXC, Ford, Opel, Porsche, VW and Volvo; other manufacturers have since joined the group. All suppliers, including Rheinmetall Automotive, use IMDS to forward their materials data to this comprehensive database – including information that must be passed on in accordance with the REACH regulation.
The disclosure of information on REACH candidates is also an important issue in the Defence sector. Several Rheinmetall Defence companies are working intensively on setting up IT systems that will in future generate and forward this customer information entirely automatically. In the meantime, Rheinmetall will continue to use e.g. product data sheets and separate REACH information letters. To implement the ECJ ruling, these REACH data have been updated since 2015 in an intensive project to ensure that customers are properly informed.
The Defence sector also includes Nitrochemie, a company that under the REACH regulation falls mainly into the role of a manufacturer of substances and formulator of mixtures. As such, Nitrochemie is affected to a large extent by REACH registration requirements. While other Rheinmetall companies are at most subject to the registration requirement as non-EU importers or have signed agreements with suppliers so that all the necessary substances have been registered by the suppliers themselves, Nitrochemie successfully registered several substances in the years up to 2018. Different deadlines applied depending on the tonnage band: all substances with production quantities of over 1,000 metric tons per year by 2010, all substances between 100 and 1,000 metric tons per year by 2013, and finally in May 2018 all substances between 1 and 100 metric tons per year. Nitrochemie submitted all registration dossiers on time and can continue to produce, import and distribute these substances within the European Union in future.
The final aspect of REACH is the regulation of certain substances of very high concern. The number of substances whose use is restricted or subject to authorization is increasing massively. Rheinmetall companies are affected by this to varying degrees. In most cases, these substances are found in supplier components. Rheinmetall is responding to this development with targeted obsolescence management, the development and qualification of substitute materials in affected products, support for authorization applications to the ECHA and requests for exemptions in the interests of national defense. The use of substitute materials is often associated with very high expenditure, as changes usually require corresponding requalification of the products, particularly in the Defence sector.