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Irish companies warned over threat to chemical supplies in a no-deal Brexit

Irish companies that use chemicals have been urged to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) today published the results of the 2018 Survey on Chemical Usage to find out how chemicals are managed by Irish companies.

As the October 31st deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU looms, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD, urged all business owners to understand their supply chain as he launched the publication in Shannon today.

“As the UK prepares to leave the EU, this will have a significant impact on the supply chain obligations of Irish companies. Any businesses that make, import, supply or use chemicals should look at where they are getting their products to determine the potential impact in their businesses.

“As companies that handle chemicals are particularly at risk of being unable to do business if there is no deal, I would advise companies in Ireland to act now to avoid disruptions in supply.”

HSA assistant chief executive Yvonne Mullooly explained how currently chemicals can cross national borders and EU borders every day without leaving the governance regime provided by the EU regulators.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018 Survey on Chemical Usage, she said: “People don’t realise it, but chemicals are involved in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. They are used in paints, detergents, plastics, adhesives and coatings, but also in goods all around us such as jewellery, shoes, furniture, electronic equipment and construction panels.

“After the UK withdrawal from the EU, if Irish companies continue to source chemicals like these from the UK, their regulatory obligations for the goods they distribute or use could change to an importer. Put simply, if you are an Irish company in this position, you need to determine firstly which chemicals are sourced in the UK and then what measures, if any, the UK supplier has put in place to reduce your regulatory requirements post Brexit.  

“Businesses need to know if they are sourcing chemical supplies from the UK, and whether they need to transfer the EU registrations to a different legal entity based in the EU-27. This should not be left to the last moment as it can take time to address data and legal access logistics, etc.

With these implications for the supply chain, chemicals regulation is a matter of crucial importance for the aerospace sector.

Speaking ahead of the 2018 Survey on Chemical Usage launch at their site, Oezguer Yesilkaya, managing director and chief executive officer of Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon, shared how the engine parts specialists firm normally holds two months stock, but has doubled it to four months for some chemical supplies. However, stockpiling gas used in the repair of aircraft engine components is not possible.

Explaining how the Shannon-based company has made plans for October 31st, he said they have looked at the chemical regulatory requirements needed to import gas from outside the EU.

“Right now, liquid argon gas is our biggest stock demand, and it comes from the UK. We get it in every two weeks and cannot stockpile any more of it safely in our storage unit. To prepare for Brexit, we got in touch with our gas supplier in Ireland and have learned that they have taken steps to ensure that they can get that gas swiftly from the UK.

“We still don’t really know what will happen on the first day of Brexit but we are doing everything we can to ensure continued supplies from the UK, and would encourage other businesses to do the same. If we don’t get these chemical supplies into Ireland, there is going to be an adverse effect and risk to business.”

The 2018 Survey on Chemical Usage interviewed 147 Irish companies involved in the supply and distribution of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing of chemicals, formulators, health and medical devices.

The findings suggest that chemical safety management in Irish workplaces has significantly improved in the last six years since the 2012 survey.

In 2018, 87% participants reported keeping a chemical product inventory, a significant rise from 59% in 2012, and almost double the amount recorded in 2007 when only 40% of companies kept such data.

In addition, more Irish companies are using the resources and supports provided by the Authority and its chemical helpdesk team. In 2018, more than three quarters - 76% - of those surveyed used the website, compared to just seven per cent in 2007. Meanwhile, in 2018, almost a quarter - 24% - used the HSA chemicals helpdesk compared to 15% in 2012.

While companies partaking in the survey indicated that they have started investigating new suppliers, many said they will continue to source and supply to/from Britain and Northern Ireland.

Companies are encouraged to continue using the Authority’s website at www.hsa.ie/brexit and the HSA chemicals helpdesk at chemicals@hsa.ie to obtain up to date information regarding the trading and use of chemicals.

For more information, see HSA report on 2018 Survey on Chemical Usage in Irish Companies including an assessment of the potential impact on Irish Companies following the UK exit from the EU.

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