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Enforcement and compliance

Enforcement is important for the implementation of legislation. Governments are responsible for setting up an efficient enforcement system and make sure that concerned actors assume their responsibilities.

Why is enforcement necessary?

The idea with having legislation in place is of course that industry and others affected by the
legislation shall comply with the legal requirements. When new legislation is being
developed, there are several issues to consider in order to facilitate future compliance
with the legislation. There is a need for enforcement to ensure that those targeted by the legislation comply with the requirements. This is important for trustworthiness in the entire legal system.

It is best when the regulated companies not only understand what the requirements are and how to comply with them, but also the reasons behind the requirements. Knowing the reason for requirements can help develop both the capacity and the willingness to comply.

Border control and market surveillance are complementary

Placing chemicals on the market is an activity that takes place in the country, and therefore needs to be controlled within the country. Market surveillance is usually understood as authorities ensuring that products released to the country’s market is in compliance with the legislation. Control by the customs at the border and market surveillance by inspectors within the country are two systems that should complement and support each other. At the border there is a possibility to stop banned substances from entering the country as a first point of control. An efficient market surveillance will contribute to a more comprehensive control of restricted chemicals as well as other chemicals within the country and will cover both those that are produced in the country and those that are imported.

Read more about border control and market surveillance in our Guidance on enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market, chapter 3.

What should be inspected?

Inspections of producers and importers of chemicals is a core activity in the enforcement of national chemicals legislation. The scope of the inspections depends on the scope of the legislation, and all enforcement activities need to be based on demands in the current legislation. General roles and responsibilities of the authorities versus industry in the management of chemicals must be clearly defined in national legislation.

Read more about the responsibilities of industry.

Read more about the responsibilities of governments.

Who should be inspected?

First, it should be clear from the legislation which actors the enforcement should target.

It is advisable to issue legislation placing obligations on the producers and importers of chemicals to classify, label and provide safety data sheets. They are the ones who should have the best knowledge of the contents and effects of the chemicals they place on the market. If the classification and labelling is correct from the start this will follow the chemicals to the downstream users and retailers, making it easier for them to fulfil their responsibilities and take necessary precautions. Applying for any approvals needed, for example for pesticides or other substances of special concern, is also a responsibility of the importers and producers.

It is not possible to cover actors in other countries through national legislation. Therefore, the importers should be responsible for the products they place on the market.

Distributors and retailers should make sure that they have received all relevant information on the products they trade, and they should check that the labelling and packaging of products delivered to them is correct. If relevant, they should make sure that necessary approvals have been granted according to the relevant legislation (for example for pesticides).

Inspections should be allowed along the entire supply chain, at producers, importers, distributors, and retailers. But with a legislation structured in the way mentioned above, focus should be on the producers and importers. That will be more cost effective, as it will prevent hazards and risks at an early stage, and restricted hazardous chemicals can be stopped from entering the market. The number of producers and importers are also fewer compared to the number of distributors and retailers.

Who should inspect?

To control legal compliance and take measures to achieve improvements is usually an obligation for enforcement authorities at central, regional or local level.

To be able to fulfil such obligations, the enforcement authority will need inspectors with knowledge of the law and usually also some technical knowledge, depending on the legislation.

Read more about capacity needed for to conduct enforcement in our Guidance on enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market, chapter 6.

Inspections - practical guidance

For the enforcement to be effective and relevant, strategic planning and prioritisations is necessary. Usually, countries have limited resources in terms of staff and financing for chemicals control, and it is important to make a prioritisation of areas and objects for enforcement.

Read more about strategic planning, prioritation and cooperation in our Guidance on enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market, chapter 8.1.

An inspection includes preparations, performance in place and follow-up measures. You can find information and practical guidance on how to make inspections in our Guidance on enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market, chapter 8.2. There are also checklists that can be used for inspections in the guidance document.

Guidance on enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market

The document provides guidance to other countries on how to set up an efficient system for the enforcement of chemicals placed on the market. Placing on the market takes place in the country, and the guidance focuses therefor on market surveillance rather than control at the border. An important part of enforcement is inspections, in particular of producers and importers. Inspection of retailers is also included in the guidance, which also contains practical advice on how to control classification, labelling and safety data sheets.

The guidance covers the following areas:

  • Why is enforcement necessary?
  • What and who should be inspected, and who should inspect?
  • Measures when observing violations
  • Practical guidance and checklists
  • Further resources

Read our guidance on Enforcement of legislation on chemicals placed on the market.

This guidance complements the UNEP Guidance on the Development of Legal and Institutional Infrastructures and Measures for Recovering Costs of National Administration for Sound Management of Chemicals (LIRA Guidance), and UNEP Guidance "Enforcement of Chemicals Control Legislation".

UNEP LIRA Guidance External link.

UNEP Guidance on Enforcement of Chemicals Control Legislation External link.

FAO and WHO Guidance for inspection of pesticide producers, importers, distributors and retailers External link.


Illustrations by Maja Modén.

Last published 7 July 2022