Not to be sniffed at


In the wake of REACH, the aerospace aftermarket still needs to get to grips with dust extraction, says Minden Systems’ managing director & sales, Les Brooker.

It’s hard to believe that the REACH Directive is nearly 13 years old, but there is still work to do to eradicate the exposure of dangerous substances to workers in the aerospace industry.

Born in June 2007, the EU’s REACH regulation is a force for good. We all like to bemoan the added burden placed on us by new rules, but it’s important to say that the directive is a positive development. It has two key, laudable objectives; to protect people and the planet from harmful chemicals, while enhancing competitiveness of the European chemicals industry.

REACH places the burden of proof on companies. To comply with the regulation, companies must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. They have to demonstrate to the European chemicals agency (ECHA) how the substance can be safely used, and they must communicate the risk management measures to the users.

Obviously, the aerospace industry uses many thousands of chemical substances within the manufacturing process. Inevitably, it takes years to assess and catalogue so many chemicals to meet the regulation. This predicament has led to something known as ‘sunset dates’ after which the placing on the market (and the use of a substance) is prohibited unless an authorisation is granted. It’s a stay of execution for certain chemicals.

Where certain substances such as lead chromate and hexa-chromates are concerned, these chemicals have been granted dispensation from REACH due to their unusually good cohesive and protective properties that are central to the aerospace production process.

The problem which emanates from this ruling is most evident in the aftermarket, where vital maintenance and repairs are undertaken for both civil and military aircraft. Often overlooked, this is a major part of the aerospace sector, comprising around 1,300 companies employing close to 60,000 people according to latest government statistics.

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Aerospace Manufacturing, 27 Jan 2021