Insights from the RINA Products in Compliance Conference 2023
This blog was originally posted on 21st November, 2023. Further regulatory developments may have occurred after publication. To keep up-to-date with the latest compliance news, sign up to our newsletter.
AUTHORED BY KELLY BUGIERA, SENIOR REGULATORY COMPLIANCE SPECIALIST, COMPLIANCE & RISKS
RINA Product in Compliance Conference, November 2023
The RINA, Products in Compliance Conference 2023 took place on 15 and 16 November 2023 in London. The two day conference focused on crucial topics in product safety such as PFAS use, lead in products, EU General Product Safety Regulation, the new EU Machinery Regulation, as well as issues related to the use of Artificial Intelligence.
Additionally, of particular interest, were discussions associated with ESG, circular economy and supply chain issues such as those associated with critical minerals.
Discussions included a review of the challenges in reaching global consensus on a uniform definition of PFAS substances. In addition, challenges associated with finding safe and effective alternatives to PFAS were discussed.
Frequently, there is little data on alternative substances to PFAS, so regulatory officials and industry find themselves needing to question whether or not the alternatives could potentially pose hazards that have not yet been discovered.
Lead in Products
Information was provided regarding EU REACH and a review of the status of lead authorisation. Lead metal, as well as 11 inorganic lead compounds, are currently at the same point in REACH
Authorisation process. An overview was provided of ongoing EU activities directed at reducing risks associated with lead. These include, but are not limited to, a review of lead exemptions under ELV Directive, a review of EU binding occupational exposure limits (OEL) and biological limit values (BLV) and publication of the new EU Batteries Regulation.
EU General Product Safety Regulation
Set to be fully applicable from 13 December 2024, details of the new General Product Safety Regulations, which will repeal the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), were provided. The emphasis of the new regulation includes:
- increased responsibility and obligations for online marketplaces
- enhanced requirements to ensure a higher level of effectiveness of product recalls
- requirements for the establishment of an EU responsible party for all consumer products covered by the new regulation
EU Machinery Regulation
The Machinery Directive remains in force until 2027, at which point the new regulation will fully apply.
The new requirements are in the form of a regulation instead of directive in order to help reduce administrative burden on member states and economic operators, as well as to avoid different national interpretations.
Among other changes, the new regulation provides a number of new definitions, such as those for “safety function”, “making available on the market” and “essential health and safety requirements”.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Information was provided about the impact of AI on product safety and an examination of the current and potential future impacts of AI in common household products. “AI” is a term that is broadly used without a global consensus on the definition, although it is generally accepted that AI is reliant on algorithms, operates with some degree of autonomy and has the ability to perform complex analytical tasks in real-time.
Potential benefits include: more efficient and effective products; diminished likelihood of product recalls; improved product quality and safety; improved cybersecurity protection; and increased product personalisation.
ESG in the EU
A primary focus of the discussion of ESG in the EU was an overview of their approach to environmental regulations which include topics such as ecodesign, batteries, packaging and packaging waste, deforestation-free products, green claims, as well as corporate sustainability reporting.
Also of crucial importance in the area of ESG is the EU’s proposal for a regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the EU market, which is expected to be adopted in 2024.
A strong theme throughout the two-day conference was the need for all players in the supply chain, as well as government authorities and regulators, to embrace the idea of repair instead of growth.
Instead of continually manufacturing more and more products, manufacture fewer products that will last for decades and transform businesses into being “repair-focused” instead of “production-focused”.
Related to this concept are legislation, both enacted and proposed, regarding right-to-repair and the growing global prevalence of repair cafes.
Discussion of building a responsible supply chain focused on issues such as critical minerals. It was clarified that critical minerals are necessary for communications systems, electric vehicles, renewable energy and chemicals for manufacture, among other critical applications.
A mineral is considered “critical” if it is of limited or highly concentrated supply and it is not easily substituted or diversified.
It is also vulnerable to supply chain disruptions that could be natural, geopolitical or economic and is of strategic importance to a nation’s operations, economy and security. Of particular importance is the “midstream” of the global supply chain of critical minerals which focuses on the processing and refining stages.
The quality of speakers and the information that was provided at the RINA conference were excellent. This was the first in-person conference RINA has held since prior to the COVID pandemic. Date and time of a potential 2024 conference has not yet been announced.
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