RoHS Exemptions Unlikely to Be Published Before Fall 2017

The EU Commission and Member States continue to meet to discuss the disposition of RoHS exemption renewal requests submitted by industry in January 2015.  During their December 15, 2016 meeting in Brussels, the experts reviewed requests on: Lead as an alloying element in steel (Annex III exemption 6a); Lead as an alloying element in aluminum (Annex III exemption 6b); Lead as an alloying element in copper (Annex III exemption 6c); Lead in high melting temperature type solders (Annex III exemption 7a); Lead in a glass or ceramic other than dielectric ceramic in capacitors (Annex III exemption 7c-I), jointly with exemption request 2015-1; Lead as activator in the fluorescent powder (Annex III exemption 18b), jointly with exemption request 2015-3; Lead in solders for the soldering to machined through hole discoidal and planar array ceramic multilayer capacitors (Annex III exemption 24); and Lead in cermet-based trimmer potentiometer elements (Annex III exemption 34).

The Commission is currently working on preparing the draft legislative proposals for these and other exemptions) which will be sent to Member States for written consultation.  The drafts will likely be published in the spring; final legislative acts could be published in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) in the fall at the earliest. Under the EU RoHS2, all existing exemptions were set to expire by July 21, 2016. However, all exemptions for which industry submitted a renewal application will not expire until the EU Commission completes the current ongoing review of the applications.

Minutes of the meeting are available at European Commission’s website. 

U.S. EPA Issues Nano Reporting Rule

On, January 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a rule requiring one-time reporting and recordkeeping requirements on nanoscale chemical substances in the marketplace.

Nanoscale materials have special properties related to their small size such as greater strength and lighter weight, however, they may take on different properties than their conventionally-sized counterpart. Nanoparticles are being used in electronics manufacturing processes and materials.

For the first time, EPA is using the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to collect existing exposure and health and safety information on chemicals currently in the marketplace when manufactured or processed as nanoscale materials. Companies will be required to notify EPA regarding chemical identities, production volume, methods of manufacture; processing, use, exposure, and release information, and, available health and safety data. EPA will use the information to determine if any further action under TSCA is needed.

The rule, which requires reporting within one year, will take effect May 12.

OECD Public Consultation on Due Diligence Guidance for Supply Chain Issues

The Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) is currently developing a general OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct and Companion to the Due Diligence Guidance to provide practical support to companies on the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Both the U.S. Dodd-Frank and the recent EU legislation reference the OECD Guidelines. The guidance can also serve as a reference for stakeholders to understand the measures businesses are recommended to take with regard to managing their impacts with regard to issues such as conflict minerals.

IPC’s E-30 Conflict Minerals due diligence committee is reviewing the proposed guidance and will advise IPC regarding the consultation.

The consultation closes on February 9, 2017.

ECHA Adds Four Substances to REACH Candidate List

Four more substances will be added to the REACH candidate list in January after ECHA’s Member State Committee unanimously agreed they should be designated as substances of very high concern (SVHC). This will bring the total number of substances on the list to 173.

The four substances are bisphenol A, the perfluorinated chemical PFDA (nonadecafluorodecanoic acid) and its sodium and ammonium salts, 4-heptylphenol, branched and linear (4-HPbl), and 4-tert-pentylphenol (PTAP).

Two additional substances, 4-tert-butylphenol (PTBP) and trimellitic anhydride (TMA), were not unanimously supported for inclusion and will be submitted to the European Commission for consideration.

OSHA Issues Recordkeeping Rule Enforcement Memorandum

Last week, OSHA released a November 10 memorandum which summarized enforcement of a recordkeeping rule that was finalized in May 2016.

Under the memorandum, OSHA says its inspectors can cite employers for discouraging workers from reporting injuries and illnesses without identifying an employee who didn’t make a report. The inspector only has to identify a worker who “would be deterred or discouraged” from making a report in the future.

The rule, issued May 12, requires employers to have “reasonable” procedures for reporting on-the-job injuries and illnesses (81 Fed. Reg. 29,624).

IPC, along with a coalition of industry groups known as the Coalition for Workplace Safety, filed comments opposing the rule.

 OSHA Extends Record-Keeping Violation Window to Five Years

On December 16, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule which extends the government’s window for citing employers for failing to record on-the-job injuries or illnesses from six months to five years. The rule overturns a 2012 federal appeals court ruling, commonly called Volks II, which upheld a six-month statute of limitations on citations.

The rule will take effect January 18, 2017.

IPC, along with a coalition of industry groups, opposed the rule, citing that OSHA lacked the statutory authority to override the original six-month limit contained in the OSHA Act.

RoHS and PoPs Chemicals Found in Nearly 40 Percent of Electronics in Sweden

Sweden’s Chemical Agency (Kemi) found banned chemicals in nearly 40 percent of audited low-cost electrical and electronic products. The audits, which took place throughout 2016, revealed that the discount electronics category has a “high rate of noncompliance” with Swedish and European Union RoHS and Persistent Organic Pollutants (PoPs) requirements. Labeling and documentation obligations under REACH and other regulations were also frequently found to be absent.

During 2016, Kemi audited 84 companies and analyzed the chemical content of 154 products, with short-chain chlorinated paraffins (banned under the Stockholm Convention on (PoPs) and lead (banned under RoHS). Most of the products that were examined originated in China, included bike lights, headphones, USB cables and Christmas decorations.

According to Kemi’s press release, the Agency reports manufacturers and importers for suspicion of crime when their products contain substances restricted under the RoHS Directive. When products contain substances which are restricted under the PoPs regulation or which are regulated under the REACH regulation, both manufacturers, importers and distributors are reported to the environmental prosecutor.

 

Cobalt: The Next Conflict Mineral?

Two recently launched initiatives to curb “the worst forms of child labor” and other abusive practices in the supply chain for cobalt, a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, are being led by electronics companies.

Apple, HP, Samsung SDI and Sony have joined an effort known as the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, while the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), whose members include Apple, Dell, Foxconn, and Ford Motors, has announced the new “Responsible Raw Materials Initiative.”

The Responsible Cobalt Initiative is aiming to promote cooperation with the government of the Congo. Its members have pledged to follow Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for mining supply chains, which call for companies to trace how cobalt is being extracted, transported, manufactured and sold. Any abuses would require immediate correction. The initiative is being led by a Chinese business group, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters, and supported by the OECD.

The EICC’s “Responsible Raw Materials Initiative” aims to expand scrutiny of its members’ supply chains beyond the “conflict” minerals— tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold.

IPC will continue to monitor the issue and will provide updates as they come in.

 

What will Happen to the DOL Final Overtime Rule with the New Administration?

IPC continues to address issues with the Department of Labor (DOL) final overtime rule on its own and by working with the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity—the coalition of companies and associations from many different industries. IPC’s significant concerns with the final rule are that it neglects to consider regional pay differences, wage compression on other exempt classifications, and a modern work environment in which many employees prioritize flexible work schedules. Recently, there have been some new developments that IPC would like to share with its membership.

As IPC recently reported, the DOL final overtime rule was blocked by District Judge Amos Mazzant’s preliminary injunction (PI). Since then, the Federal Government filed an appeal and requested a motion for expedited consideration, which was granted. Given all of this, the briefs will last until January 31, 2017. Oral arguments will then follow as will a decision. However, this part will take place under the new Trump Administration and it will have to decide if it wants to continue the appeal.

At this time, there is no sign as to whether the Trump Administration will do this or pursue another regulation, but Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder has spoken out strongly against the Obama Administration overtime regulation. This will be one of the first items with which it will have to deal. If the Trump Administration decides not to continue with the appeal, it is possible that another party could. The most likely case is the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which plans to petition to intervene in the case at the District Court level. If granted by the judge, the PI and arguments would remain, but the AFL-CIO could continue with the appeal and it would continue to a final resolution. However, if no other party is granted intervenor status, and the government declines to pursue the appeal, then the injunction would stand and the regulation would remain blocked. If the regulation is permanently enjoined, then the next question faced by the new administration would be whether to pursue a revised overtime regulation.

IPC is sending a letter to Labor Secretary-Designee, Andrew Puzder. The letter outlines IPC’s concerns with the DOL final overtime rule and urges that the rule be overturned or, at a minimum, modified. Stay tuned for additional updates on this issue as it progresses. However, any new changes in the status of the DOL final overtime rule will take at least until February, but quite possibly a bit later.

 

 

 

IPC Study on North American PCB Industry Reports Growth in Military/Aerospace Market

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) for military and aerospace applications remain the largest vertical market segment for PCB manufacturers in North America, representing about one-third of the market. And it is the only vertical market segment expected to grow in 2016 as a share of the North American market, according to IPC’s 2016 Analysis and Forecast for the North American PCB Industry.

Other key findings include segmented market data showing that flexible circuit market growth has continued to outpace rigid PCB growth by a wide margin, but the negative growth rates seen in recent years in the rigid PCB market steadily diminished and growth turned positive in 2015. Estimated PCB production in North America declined 4.3 percent from 2014 to 2015, while estimated market growth was virtually flat, increasing just 0.4 percent.

The annual survey-based study provides a comprehensive overview of the market and business of PCB manufacturing in North America. It contains current data and analysis covering rigid PCBs and flexible circuits separately, including market and production growth, production and sales by product categories, prototype production, vertical markets and use of special technologies such as RF and embedded components. It also reports key financial and operational metrics including revenue per employee, capacity utilization, inventory turns and lead times. Forecasts of PCB production in the Americas and the world through 2017 from Dr. Hayao Nakahara, a leading industry analyst and consultant to the PCB industry, are included in the report.

The findings within the report result from data contributed by the companies that participated in IPC’s North American PCB Statistical Program in 2015 and year-end survey. Statistical program participants represent an estimated 51 percent of the North American PCB market.

The 57-page, downloadable report is available to IPC members for $450 and to nonmembers for $900. Participants in the year-end survey received a complimentary copy of the report. For more information or to purchase the 2016 Analysis and Forecast for the North American PCB Industry, visit www.ipc.org/PCB-Study-2016.