Understanding the complex (and expensive) world of softwash product approvals
We've noticed a great deal of misunderstanding about the use of "approved" and "non-approved" softwash cleaning chemicals. Many contractors appear confused about what is legal to use and what is not. Often the attitude is "why should I care anyway?"
The whole process of understanding product approvals can seem confusing and overwhelming at first and getting to grips with the regulations a daunting prospect. But most good practices are common sense once we become familiar with the principles.
So in this post we attempt, as best we can given the immense complexity of the legislation, to simplify and clarify the situation and explain as clearly as possible what lies behind the words "government approved product".
Who are the regulatory bodies?
It's vitally important to determine if a product has Irish PRCD (Pesticide Registration and Controls Division) and UK HSE (Health & Safety Executive) approvals, is REACH (the regulations concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals) compliant and is registered with BPR (Biocide Products Regulation). If not there could be some serious legal implications in the event of an accident and subsequent litigation.
By choosing only products that are fully government approved, a contractor can be confident that they have done everything possible to assure the safety of materials and persons as regards the cleaning chemicals they use. This will stand them in good stead with the regulatory authorities in the unfortunate event of an accident.
What does "Approved Use" actually mean?
It is up to the product manufacturer to make it clear to the end user what the "approved use" of their product is and how it should be used. This will be stated on the product label and on the SDS (Safety Data Sheet).
If a product does not state an approved use of, for example, "cleaning exterior hard surfaces" it cannot legally be used for that purpose.
FACT: Adding anything to a product approved for a specific intended use voids that approval and is illegal
Hence the reason why using sodium hypochlorite (SH) that has been approved for disinfecting swimming pools and milking parlours is illegal when used for softwashing exterior hard surfaces after the addition of a surfactant and scent.
Important: We have written confirmation from both the UK HSE and the Irish PCD stating clearly in black and white that using unapproved SH, and any formulation that adds unapproved substances (surfactants, scent) to unapproved SH, for softwashing external hard surfaces is completely illegal. There is no argument about this.
This fact does not appear to concern the cowboys who spray high-strength SH over everything that doesn't move. And for domestic properties they have been getting away with it.
But managers of large commercial buildings such as offices and warehouses know full well that if they employ a cleaning contractor who uses illegal chemicals, and someone gets hurt, they themselves will be proportionately liable. This part of the legislation has it's origins as far back as the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act.
Using government approved products is particularly important when cleaning large commercial premises and non-commercial buildings used by government and other organisations. This is because the management has a legal duty of care to their staff and customers. And because of the very real threat of liitgation, which can implicate the managers personally and not just their company, they cannot afford to employ contractors who use illegal products.
The legislation dates right back to the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act and the regulations are becoming stricter year by year. For example, the Health and Safety at Work Act is underpinned by the principle of "reasonable practicability". But in some health and safety regulations, including those arising from EU law, the duty imposed is a strict one and no defence of having done what was '"reasonably practicable" is available.
Click here to read relevant information about employer's liability from the HSE website
What is a "formulator"?
Anyone who adds a surfactant, scent, or any other additional ingredient, to unapproved SH, or to a product approved for purposes other than softwashing external hard surfaces, or to a product approved for softwashing but not approved to have specific adjuvents added, will be legally classified as a formulator with all the attendant complex regulatory compliances that that entails and absolutely must be adhered to.
A formulator must comply with stringent, and extremely complex, legal conditions that the regulators are becoming more and more strict in enforcing
Responsibilities of the product supplier
The product supplier must ensure that there is an audit trail in the production process in which every ingredient must be compliant with the regulations. This is both complex to understand and expensive to implement. Mountains of paperwork. Huge financial costs.
What we at Benz Softwash have done is ensure that both Benz Lightning Cleanze and Benz Bio Cleanze are fully legally compliant with all regulations. We've done the hard work (and it really is hard work, far harder than manual work) for our customers so they can get on with running their softwash businesses.
The vast majority of softwashing contracts can be completed using either, or both, our main products: Bio Cleanze and Lightning Cleanze. All our customers have to do is use the products according to the instructions on the labels and guidance on our website.
Thus we hope to have made a potential bureaucratic nightmare into a no-brainer decision as to which products to use. Just get on with softwashing and earning good money. No softwash chemical regulations to be concerned about other than the Health & Safety procedures of application and storage.
Important: Lightning Cleanze is the only fully legal, government approved sodium hypochlorite based softwash cleaning chemical, or sodium hypochlorite based softwashing formulation, available in the UK and Ireland. It is fully approved by both the Irish and UK governments and is fully label and REACH compliant.
The importance of purity
The active ingredient in Bio Cleanze is DDAC (Didecyldimethylammonium chloride). There are only five "active substance suppliers" of DDAC on the BPR (Biocidal Products Regulation) that are allowed to sell DDAC as a biocide in the whole of Europe. They are large multi-national companies.
The purity of DDAC and the actual amount contained in a finished product are important. As with SH not all DDAC is of the same quality. The purity of Bio Cleanze is guaranteed greater than 95% and is usually 98%. It is the highest quality feedstock available.
All softwash biocides are not created equal
Although as a company policy we never comment directly on products from other companies, it is important to bear in mind that all biocides are not created equal.
For example, when creating Bio Cleanze we experimented with three versions of DDAC. One was a 40% DDAC water-based concentrate without IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) and found it very weak compared to our feedstock. There are also other serious disadvantages to it compared to Bio Cleanze, particularly it's lack of resiliance to cold weather conditions.
Similarly, SH biocides are not created equal and different brands and sources have varying degrees of purity and life expectancy.
We at Benz Softwash did a great deal of research and experiential testing before deciding on the formulas we sell. We satisfied ourselves that both our DDAC biocide (Bio Cleanze) and our SH biocide (Lightning Cleanze) are of the very highest quality possible, as we are not in the business of selling anything less.
Click here to read about Quats and DDAC in more depth
Read more about how professional softwash contractors can stay legal and safe
Click here to learn how softwash contractors can operate legally within government regulations (Part 2)
Click here to learn why it is important for softwash contractors to be familiar with COSHH, REACH and other softwashing regulations
We know this information is complex, and possibly boring to some, but it's the reality of the world we live in. And we all have to play ball or face the legal consequences.
Whatever your views on it, we hope you found this information helpful.
Ben, Leo & Fiona
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