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What is UK REACH? 5 essential facts for producers and exporters seeking access to the British market

What is UK REACH? It is highly important for manufacturers, exporters, importers and other (downstream) traders of chemicals into Great Britain. All essentials are explained here.

Latest update: March 27, 2023

1) What is UK REACH?

UK REACH is a set of regulations introduced by the UK government that came into force on 1 January 2021. The regulations are designed to replace the European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, which the UK was previously a part of. The majority of chemical substances produced in or imported into Great Britain (GB) must comply with the UK REACH legislation. This can be:

  • A substance on its own
  • A substance in a mixture, for example ink or paint
  • A substance that makes up an ‘article’ – an object that is produced with a special shape, surface or design, for example a car, furniture or clothes.

The REACH laws in the UK and the EU function independently of one another. Where applicable, you must make sure you comply with both of them.

2) Stakeholders and their responsibilities in regard to UK REACH

Many businesses in Great Britain have a responsibility under UK REACH. Some have registration responsibilities under UK REACH and some do not. Others may have new duties under UK REACH to those they had under EU REACH. The main stakeholders are:


They produce or extract a substance either through chemical synthesis, smelting or extraction. They are required to hold a valid registration for these substances under UK REACH.


Importers bring chemical substances into GB from either the EU/EEA or NI or from the rest of the world. They have responsibilities to hold registrations for these substances unless their non-GB suppliers, were applicable, have appointed an Only Representative to take on the duties on behalf of the GB importers.

Importers under UK REACH who were downstream users under EU REACH 

GB downstream users (who imported chemicals from EU/EEA before the transition period and relied on an EU REACH registration held further up the supply chain) will become importers under UK REACH. They must ensure that the substances they import are covered by a valid UK REACH registration.

Downstream users

These are companies or individual workers who directly handle chemical substances in the course of their business activities and are not themselves the GB-based manufacturer or importer of the substances. Some businesses classified as downstream users under EU REACH may find that they are classified as importers under UK REACH if they are sourcing substances directly from the EU/EEA. This will mean they may have new registration responsibilities.

You are a downstream user if:

  • you are a company or individual who directly handles chemical substances covered by the UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation in the course of your business activities. This can be in either professional or industrial situations and involve mixtures or individual substances;
  • you come into contact with chemicals in a business setting to produce mixtures, transfer substances between containers, produce components or finished goods, or as a means of carrying out your work (such as paints, adhesives, cleaning agents) you are a downstream user.

Downstream users may need to supply a risk assessment and risk management measures to the ‘Health and Safety Executive’ (HSE) if they don’t want their supplier to know about how they use the chemicals. Some users may also be importers and have a duty to register.

You are not a downstream user if you distribute chemicals or purchase products containing chemicals for personal users. Chemical retailers and consumers are not considered downstream users.

3) Specific duties for concerned parties

Businesses that aim to export an EU-registered substance to the GB market and also placed it there in 2019/2020

To maintain access to the British market they can submit a “Downstream User Import Notification” (DUIN) to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). By doing so, the registration of their substance can be postponed for a period of 2 to 6 years. Non-GB based exporters need to appoint an Only Representative, located in GB, to submit a DUIN. Actually, the deadline for DUIN expired on October 2021, but current (and thus, late) DUIN submissions are still possible.

Businesses that initially aim to export an EU-registered substance to the GB market

In this case, an abridged registration process may suffice. This is called NRES (New Registration of an Existing Substance). After completion of NRES, the substance is clear to enter the GB market. One of the requirements of NRES is submitting a simplified registration dossier. Please note that the full registration dossier must be submitted within 2 to 6 years from October 27, 2027. Furthermore, NRES only applies to substances registered under EU REACH before December 31, 2020.

Exporters who do not qualify for DUIN or NRES

These companies must register their substances under UK REACH before they can enter the GB market. When required, full registration of the substance must be completed by a GB-based OR.

4) Important third parties under UK REACH

Only Representative

Under article 8 of UK REACH, a non-GB manufacturer/formulator/producer of articles can appoint a GB-based Only Representative to fulfil the obligations of the GB-based importers. This may help maintain access to the GB market for their substances by reducing the responsibilities of importers.

Only representatives must be:

  • a natural or legal person established in Great Britain;
  • equipped with sufficient background in the practical handling of substances and the information related to them;
  • appointed by a mutual agreement with a manufacturer, formulator or article producer, established outside Great Britain;
  • responsible for complying with the legal requirements for importers under UK REACH.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a UK government agency responsible for regulating and enforcing health and safety at work. Its role is to provide guidance, advice, and support to businesses to help them comply with health and safety regulations. It also carries out inspections and investigations to ensure that employers are meeting their legal obligations and takes enforcement action when necessary.

Under UK REACH, companies that manufacture or import chemicals into the UK must register their products with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This includes companies that were previously registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Companies that have already registered their chemicals with the ECHA can use the data they submitted to apply for UK REACH registration, but they must do so within certain timeframes.

UK REACH also requires companies to provide information about the safety of their chemicals and to carry out risk assessments. The HSE has the power to restrict or ban the use of chemicals that it deems to be unsafe.

Overall, the goal of UK REACH is to ensure that chemicals used in the UK are safe for human health and the environment. It also aims to promote innovation and competitiveness in the UK chemical industry while maintaining high standards of safety.

5) What must be your procedure?

  • Identification of your substances.
  • Check existing registrations in EU REACH.
  • Check if your substances are initially being placed on the GB market.
  • Appoint a GB-based OR and provide all the relevant information.
What is UK REACH and how do you comply? This is an overview of necessary steps.
How to comply with UK REACH?
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