Are you out of REACH? Avoiding the dangers of violating regulations

A director has been jailed for violating the REACH Regulation created to assess the production and use of chemicals and their impact to humans and the environment.

Founder and sole director of a Midlands company has been handed a 10-month custodial sentence for the sale of a plant protection product and a paint stripper which contained banned substances. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had been alerted that Nuneaton-based Abel (UK) was selling a weed killer containing sodium chlorate by a complainant in August 2014. Sodium chlorate is not approved for use in weed killers because a safe level of use has not been established.

The business was also selling paint stripper containing dichloromethane (DCM) a restricted substance under Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. DCM’s use has been restricted because its use can be harmful to human health and has resulted in fatalities when it is not used properly.

The HSE found Abel (UK) had also failed to check at point of sale that the paint stripper containing DCM was either being sold for use in industrial installations or, after October 2016, to appropriately certified professionals; a key condition of its sale.

The regulator worked with online resellers to remove advertisements for these products and served enforcement notices to prohibit further supply. However, Abel (UK), whose services included mobile truck and fleet washing and pressure-washer street cleaning before it was dissolved on 30 January 2018, ignored the notices.

Nicholas Corbett, who currently runs Abel Group (Midlands) in Atherstone, Warwickshire following the closure of Abel (UK), pleaded guilty to breaching Regs 9 and 18 of the Plant Protection Products Regulations 2011 and Reg 10 of REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 at Warwick Crown Court.


If you sell or use chemicals within the workplace, my advice for employers would be to:

  • Check that your products do not contain banned substances.
  • Ensure that you know what the customers intend to use that product for so that you are selling it appropriately (industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Review all of your COSHH Assessments.

For employees:

  • Check all of the COSHH Assessments before you use a substance.
  • Use all the controls in place before you use or handle a controlled substance.


Simone Corner
(Health and Safety Consultant)