SEC to Reconsider Conflict Minerals Guidance

On January 31, 2017, Acting Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Michael S. Piwowar released a public statement directing the SEC staff to consider whether their 2014 guidance is still appropriate and whether any additional relief is appropriate.  The guidance was issued by the SEC after the April 2014 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ finding that a portion of the SEC’s Conflict Minerals Rule violated the First Amendment.

In an additional statement, the Acting Chairman raised questions regarding the effects of the regulation, including the negative impacts of a de-facto boycott.

The Acting Chairman has requested public comments on all aspects of the Conflict Minerals Rule and guidance through Thursday, March 16. IPC plans to submit comments, and encourages its members to do so as well.  Members with questions or issues they would like to include in IPCs comments should contact Fern Abrams at FernAbrams@ipc.org.

 

Learn what Siemens PLM can do for you at IPC APEX EXPO

Don’t miss Siemens PLM Software at IPC APEX EXPO 2017 on Wednesday, February 15 at 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, when our experts will be on hand to answer your questions related to our posters describing exciting new technologies and the strategies to implement them.  Look for the Siemens posters in public hallway areas of IPC APEX EXPO.

  1. Additive Manufacturing Reshapes Everything.  New software, hardware and material technologies transform the way products are designed and manufactured. 3D printing helps companies produce new-generation parts that were impossible to make before. Learn about revolutionary technologies that industrialize 3D printing.
  2. Advanced Robotics for Complex Electronics Assembly. In electronics assembly today next generation products are adding manufacturing complexity and increased production costs are driving the need for automation. However, automation is reducing errors while increasing quality and speed, and flexible, adaptable robotics technology is readily available.  Learn how you can easily automate difficult tasks for improved performance.
  3. Green Design and the Benefits of PLM.  Consumers demand greener, more environmentally and socially compliant products to protect the earth and mankind.  Adopting strategies to enable the efficient design of green products can help manufacturers meet consumer and consumer demands, comply with regulations and create winning products.  Learn about the challenges, methods, results and our conclusions about Green Design.
  4. Product Performance Intelligence for Better Products and Customer Experience.  Prevent recalls, improve quality, and deliver better customer experience.  Challenges are growing for electronics companies.  Valuable opportunities exist in these challenges.  Disparate data silos inhibit opportunities. Learn how you can transform data into product performance intelligence and seize the opportunities and deliver proven business value.

Visit the Siemens PLM exhibit in booth #1023. The exhibit will demonstrate how Siemens connects the digital thread from planning and design to production and beyond, creating an integrated manufacturing data model with the intelligence to easily interoperate among departments, systems and sites helping close the loop for improved efficiency for the Electronics Industry.  Visit Siemens PLM web pages for information about Electronics Industry Solutions.

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.

 

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.