British Coatings Federation (BCF)

This month bodyshop catches up with Tom Bowtell, chief executive and Trevor Fielding and Hugh Williams, from the regulatory affairs team of the British Coatings Federation (BCF) to discuss the automotive refinish paint industry. Here we look at the two main issues currently causing concern — non-compliance with volatile organic compound (VOC) regulations and the use of isocyanates in two pack paints.

Please can you provide us with a brief insight into BCF?

Tom – We are the trade body for the entire paint and inks industries, with over 90% of the industry in membership. However, the automotive refinish sector is extremely important to us, as there are an estimated 15,000 people employed within bodyshops that work with paint every day, and over 300,000 people employed in the wider paints and inks supply chain – we are an important part of the economy.

Hugh – As a membership association, we represent our members and the industry as a whole, as well as help with regulatory issues, whilst promoting accomplishments within the industry, such as the rising amount of UK paint which is now being exported.

How do you ensure regular discussions with all of your members?

Tom – All of our 14 members in the automotive refinish sector, (which includes the likes of AkzoNobel, BASF Coatings, HMG Paints, PPG Industries and Quest Automotive), attend meetings on a regular basis to discuss the latest issues within the industry.
We have a strict agenda of topics which defines what discussion is allowed, to ensure compliance with competition law. Our main focus however is on safety and regulations. The two biggest issues affecting the automotive refinish sector at the present time are non-compliance with the VOC regulations, and raw materials, such as isocyanates which are currently under threat from the European chemicals regulations – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).

Please can you explain the purpose of REACH?

Trevor – REACH is a long-term programme created to protect human health from hazardous chemicals and products. REACH is currently halfway through its roll out, which is designed to highlight substances of a high concern. These substances are then placed on a ‘candidate list’ where industry is asked to find, and provide, an alternative to use.

Tom – If there is no alternative, such as for isocyanates, the industry will have to give a financial justification for continued use, along with measures to control exposure, which could take several years. This is why the correct use of substances like isocyanates is so important. It’s not clear where it’s heading yet, but the more we can do to prepare ourselves with a strong case of safe usage, the less chance of isocyanates disappearing from the market and the vast implications this could entail.

Have you ever been involved with British Standards Institution (BSI), in terms of developing PAS125 or the new BS10125, or with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?

Hugh – We work closely with the HSE in promoting safe use of products and equipment.  We have also had a number of discussions with BSI and are active on several of its committees. PAS125 has an impact on helping produce high quality repairs and promote good working practice, which we obviously support as well.

You recently revised your isocyanates poster for bodyshops, please can you tell us a little about this.

Tom – If isocyanates are sprayed and you’re not wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) it can cause a number of respiratory problems, including asthma. Therefore, we helped with a campaign led by the HSE several years ago who ran day events for bodyshops to learn about the safe use of paint products. More recently, along with our members, we decided to create a poster for bodyshops to have in their workshops on the dangers of isocyanates, which we hope is now in most of the bodyshops in the UK.

Hugh – The data from HSE shows that bodyshops have improved their working practices in this area, and today we are seeing most bodyshops taking the necessary precautions  and wearing correct PPE. What is BCF’s view of the changing repair solutions within the market today?

Hugh – The HSE has conducted studies into mobile repair and has said it is currently safe, and suggested the cautions the SMART repairers are taking are sufficient enough. It is certainly a growth market but for now it seems to be under control because only small areas are painted, so the volume of paint currently being used is relatively minimal.

Tom – One of the concerns is the growth in the value sector – we need to make sure people are still using paint in the correct way. What we don’t want is to see an increase in asthma cases, as it won’t help with our submission to defend isocyanates to the European Commission. If the industry wants to keep the technology, then we have got to keep safe.

If the European Commission decides to prohibit the use of isocyanates, what would the impact be?

Trevor – It would mean the end for two-pack isocyanate products, which means all products using a hardener would be affected. There are no viable alternatives to isocyanate based systems at present, so this is a real concern. Isocyanates are not just in vehicle refinishing materials, and there may be issues in other industries and countries, but we are trying to show that this industry is safe, and under control.

Tom – We are working hard behind the scenes with regulators and the UK government to help them understand our position and what we are doing, because if we lost isocyanates, it would have a major impact.

What would be your message to an end-user in order to help ensure isocyanate use remains?

Hugh – Bodyshops need to make sure they have no isocyanaterelated cases of asthma as this will certainly help with our case to the Commission. The whole purpose of REACH is to get rid of hazardous chemicals, but there isn’t an issue as long as they are used safely with the correct PPE.  For example, the habit of lifting masks immediately after spraying to check the finish is not recommended, as the isocyanate mist will still be in the atmosphere.

What other issues are you currently exploring?

Tom – The lack of enforcement of the VOC directive, resulting in continued sale of solventborne basecoats by some distributors is a major issue. We are looking to work with the government and local trading standard authorities in regards to the paint label change which is taking place in June 2015. Then, we can help them to identify whether a product is solventbased or not. For us, it’s fairly easy to recognise but for trading standards officers, who spend most of their time checking cleanliness in restaurant kitchens, you can see how easy it is to get confused.

The problem is caused by companies importing solventborne non-compliant products for sale to bodyshops. However, law abiding paint companies and bodyshops have already switched to waterborne and have invested in the technology, therefore they are losing sales as a result. Distributors are using a loophole that solventborne basecoats can still be used for general industrial and some commercial vehicle applications, whereas we know these products are ending up in bodyshops.

Trevor – I think the rise in insurance deductibles is leading to people shopping around, looking for the lowest price repair, which is feeding the growth in this sector, and the use of these non-compliant products is affecting the compliant bodyshops. Because of this, we have been happy to support our members to try and stamp it out.

Tom – This is why we are looking at holding a roundtable discussion to help raise the profile of the issue, and see how we can move forward.

The coatings industry is worth £2.3bn, with eight per cent of this from automotive refinishing paint, and four per cent from automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) paint. This means the automotive refinish paint industry is worth an impressive £276m.

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