Companies related to electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) must ensure UK RoHS compliance before they can place their product on the British Market. What are the essential requirements?
UK RoHS, a brief introduction
The UK RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. It aims to protect human health and the environment by reducing the number of hazardous substances used in the production of EEE. The UK RoHS regulation largely mirrors the EU RoHS Directive. This article highlights 6 important facts that every manufacturer, importer and distributor of EEE in GB needs to understand.
1) Which substances are restricted?
RoHS applies to all electronic and electrical equipment placed on the UK market. These products can contain substances that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment. The use of the following substances in EEE is restricted:
- Lead (Pb)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)
2) What are the exemptions?
The regulations in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland cover all EEE, cables and spare parts. However, for certain specific technical applications, an economic operator can apply for an exemption to allow these hazardous substances to be used above their maximum prescribed values. These include:
- some equipment for military use or specifically designed to be sent into space
- products integral to equipment that is not covered by the regulations
- large-scale stationary industrial tools and large-scale fixed installations
- photovoltaic (solar) panels produced for permanent use at specific locations
- means of transport (apart from certain two-wheeled electric vehicles)
- non-road mobile machinery specifically for professional use
- products specifically for research and development available on a business-to-business basis
- pipe organs
- active implantable medical devices
Great Britain operates its own exemptions system, independent of the EU exemptions system. To possibly be granted an exemption to use a hazardous substance in manufacturing EEE, certain exemption criteria must be met. The Office for Product Safety and Standards provides related and detailed guidance.
3) What is the corporate procedure to meet UK RoHS compliance?
Manufacturers who sell EEE in Great Britain and/or Northern Ireland are required to assess their production controls in order to assure that their products do not include a greater quantity of potentially dangerous substances than are permitted by the maximum allowed levels. The substances involved are listed above under number 1.
First of all, technical documentation is required to demonstrate compliance. This must be retained for 10 years after the last product is first placed on the market and be made available to OPSS on request. Some regulations require it to be kept for longer for certain EEE: guidance on energy labelling requirements. The required technical documentation consists of:
- a Declaration of Conformity
- a record of the related conformity assessment procedure
- any other production control documentation, such as test reports
Labelling and compliance with other, relevant legislation
Furthermore, individual products must have a type, batch or serial number and show the manufacturer’s name or trademark, and address. Manufacturers must also declare conformity with all relevant legislation by affixing the UKCA mark (in the case of EEE being placed on the market in GB) and /or the CE mark (in the case of EEE being placed on the market in Northern Ireland).
Successive steps to take for self-certification
- Determine if the product falls under the scope of UK RoHS regulations. These apply to a majority of EEE placed on the market in the UK. Although there are some exemptions as mentioned above under number 2.
- Identify restricted substances in the product. The restricted substances as mentioned above under number 1, must not be present in concentrations above 0.1% by weight of the homogeneous material.
- Obtain compliance documentation from suppliers. Manufacturers must procure documentation from their suppliers to confirm the absence of restricted substances in their components.
- Conduct testing if necessary. If the compliance of a product is uncertain, testing can be carried out to confirm the absence of restricted substances.
- Produce and maintain compliance documentation. Manufacturers must make documentation which demonstrates compliance with UK RoHS regulations. This documentation must be made available upon request. It must always meet up to the latest standards, so it is important to maintain it at all times.
- Use applicable labelling. Products that comply with UK RoHS regulations should be labelled correctly to indicate compliance.
4) Who monitors and enforces compliance?
It’s essential to note that non-compliance with UK RoHS regulations can result in penalties and fines, so it’s crucial to ensure compliance before placing products on the market.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is the organization responsible for enforcing RoHS in the UK. The OPSS also has the authority to issue enforcement announcements, mandating the removal of non-compliant products from the UK market. Those found guilty of violating the RoHS standards may be sentenced to imprisonment or to pay a fine of up to £20,000.
Action to take when a product is (suspected to be) non-compliant
The OPSS statement in their guidance is as follows:
Economic operators in Great Britain and Northern Ireland must take specific steps if they know or suspect a product is non-compliant, including:
- notifying OPSS if the economic operator ‘considers or has reason to believe’ that a product placed on the GB and/ or NI market does not conform to the regulations.
- notifying the relevant EU Member State Market Surveillance Authority if the economic operator ‘considers or has reason to believe’ that a product placed on the NI or EU market does not conform to the regulations.
- keeping a register of EEE that they have placed on the market that is non-compliant or that has been recalled and keep others in the supply chain informed of these matters.
- communicating detected non-compliant products to other economic operators in the supply chain as follows:
- manufacturers and importers must inform their distributors
- importers must inform the manufacturer
- distributors must inform the importer or manufacturer as appropriate
- taking remedial action, as appropriate, if the economic operator ‘considers or has reason to believe’ that a product does not conform to the regulations which includes:
- taking corrective measures (fix the non-conformity)
- withdrawing the product (stop it from being made available further down the supply chain, including to end users)
- recalling the product (draw it back from end users)
Notifications can be submitted to OPSS via the following form: RoHS notifications guidance and form for completion (ODT, 650 KB)(Text of the OPSS Guidance)
5) What is the validity period for CE-marked products on the British market?
Stakeholders must be set to use the UKCA marking no later than January 1, 2025. This is a further extension to the original expiration date, announced by the British government on November 14, 2022. The CE mark is accepted in the UK until this date. Although you need to use the UKCA marking as soon as attainable. Companies have the choice of affixing the UKCA mark to the products, packaging, or documents as necessary till the end of 2027 using a label or something similar. The UKCA mark must be firmly attached to the goods as of 1 January 2028.
This applies to most goods that require UKCA marking. However, there are some exceptions:
- medical devices
- construction products
- marine equipment
- transportable pressure equipment
- rail products
6) Are there different terms for different economic operators?
Yes, they are different. Manufacturers must take action as mentioned above under number 3. The official OPSS guidance describes the terms for importers and distributors as follows:
- confirm manufacturers have met the regulations for EEE they place on the GB and/or NI market
- retain a copy of the Declaration of Conformity
- ensure technical documentation is available to OPSS on request for 10 years after the last product is first placed on the market
Individual products must show the importer’s name or trademark, and a contactable address on the product or packaging.
If an importer places EEE on the GB or NI market under its own name or trademark, it must comply with all manufacturer’s obligations.
- ensure EEE displays the relevant markings
- not make a product available if they have reason to believe it is non-compliant
If a distributor modifies EEE in a way that might affect the compliance of that product, it must comply with all manufacturer’s obligations.
You are an importer if:
- You are the first one bringing goods from outside the UK and placing them on the market in Great Britain.
- You are the one bringing goods for the first time into Northern Ireland from either Great Britain or another non-EU country and placing them on the Northern Ireland market.