Trike under the COSHH

2 min read

More than 50 per cent of the UK's manufacturing and engineering companies using carcinogenic solvent trichloroethylene could face prosecution under new legislation, a leading expert has warned.

Clive Ward, general manager of the Clean-Tek product range at surface preparation specialists Wheelabrator Group, believes over half of affected companies are putting themselves and their staff at risk, by failing to prepare for the Solvent Emissions Directive (SED), which comes into force on October 31 next year.

The SED restricts emissions from organic solvents, such as trichloroethylene, more commonly known as 'trike', to limit worker exposure and protect health. In the UK, trike has been used for industrial component cleaning for many years, frequently in open top vapour degreasing tanks, some over 40 years old.

Mr Ward said: ‘When the SED was passed by the EU in 1999 it gave businesses eight years to implement changes, but a staggering number of companies still haven't done anything about it and the clock is ticking.’

The SED is the latest in a series of steps, clamping down on the use of trike. The EU reclassified the solvent as a category two carcinogen in June 2001, requiring UK companies to treat it as such under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations (COSHH).

Under COSHH employers must consider whether it is reasonably practical to prevent exposure to trike, by switching to an alternative substance or format, and if not, whether they can enclose the process completely.

Companies failing to comply with the emission limits set under the SED will face investigation and possible prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive. Firms may also face increasing compensation claims for associated health problems from affected employees, as well as hefty fines.

‘This new legislation is the latest in a pattern by authorities restricting the use of trike and future developments are likely to limit its use further,' said Mr Ward. ‘Now is the time for employers to evaluate their long-term use of the solvent. Firms committed to the wellbeing of staff will recognise this as an opportunity to eradicate solvents from their operation and seek alternative methods. Aqueous cleaning, for example, is no longer the costly process it once was and is highly effective at removing grease, oil, dust, tar, carbon, dirt and other contaminants.’

Mr Ward concluded: ‘For many businesses, the SED will be the single biggest threat to their survival. They must make crucial decisions about their long-term use of trike now and not leave it to the last minute, when it may be too late to avoid prosecution.’