Chemicals Coffee Time (the new name for Coronavirus Chemicals Update), 26th August 2022

Dear Friend,

Happy Friday!

Welcome to Chemicals Coffee Time, which is the new name for Coronavirus Chemicals Update! It’s still the same blend of chemical regulatory and safety news, recipes, Reasons to be Cheerful, quirky chemistry (we do like an unusual periodic table!), occasional rants about bad science, updates on chemical trade issues, and lots of input from our lovely readers. Just to warn you, we’ll mention both the old and new names for the newsletter in the title for a few more weeks so anyone who’s been away can get used to the new name.

Congratulations to Simon Temple of Meridian Biotechnologies and Thomas Bamford of Vickers who were the only people to submit (incorrect) guesses – your prizes are on their way (a rather nice mug made from lab glassware with the caffeine molecule printed on it). Serves me right for only giving a week’s notice of the name change, when a lot of people are away on holiday :).

New Monthly “Best Bits” LinkedIn Newsletter

As well as a new name for this newsletter, we’re also going to collate a monthly round-up of “best bits” and put it into a LinkedIn newsletter, called “Chemicals Coffee Time Monthly”. Many thanks to John Rawson of Sholkem Chemie Associates Ltd for suggesting a round-up newsletter, a good 18 months ago, and we’ve finally managed to get there!

“Chemicals Coffee Time Monthly” will be a public version of the newsletter, so there will be many items which are too sensitive to share widely, and to get the full details, you’ll need to stay subscribed to this email list to learn about everything, including newsflash items. (Please also stay subscribed on this email list if you’re a CLP Mastery trainee or GHS Knowledgebase subscriber, a member or invitee of the Chemical Regulations Self Help Group, or a client of TT Environmental Ltd, otherwise you could lose access to vital information!).

The first edition of “Chemicals Coffee Time Monthly” is coming out today, so do watch out for that and subscribe if you’re interested. If we’re not already in touch on LinkedIn, I’d be delighted to connect, .

Thank you for reading

Thank you for reading, and thank you to all our many contacts in the chemical and chemical-using industries for your support, as TT Environmental turned 21 on the 20th August. Keeping the chemical industry going as safely as possible, so that we can all benefit from chemicals while minimising the downsides, is my personal mission, and TT Environmental wouldn’t be in business without you. Thank you again.

The 20th August is also an important day for us personally, as it’s Meg (our old cocker spaniel)’s birthday, she turned twelve and enjoyed a big walk on Warley Moor and shared some strawberries with us at suppertime (but not a trace of cream, because of her pancreatitis). Then Islay was 4 on the 25th. Dogs lives are so brief, but they give us so much love while they are here.

Reminder – the UK Government’s survey on UK-REACH closes on 1st September

If you are affected by UK-REACH registration, please do respond to this important survey which may lead to the extension of the UK-REACH registration deadlines.

The online consultation is here:… and you can also send email responses to this email:, or in writing to REACH Policy and Legislation Team, Ground Floor, Seacole Building, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF. Note that there are some detailed questions on the government’s Impact Assessment document, so it helps to have a soft copy downloaded to your laptop when you answer these.

Chemicals and the Offensive Weapons Act, continued

Following on from last week’s link to Hibiscus’s excellent summary on this issue…, are you aware that the HSE don’t have any powers under the Offensive Weapons Act,… which has recently come into force in the UK?

The Act covers corrosive products, knives, some firearms etc, so I suppose it makes sense, but I do rather wish that the HSE were able to be involved when it comes to selling corrosives online, along with their duties under CLP. The enforcing authority is listed as “A local weights and measures authority”, which effectively means Trading Standards. I am concerned that TS staff do not necessarily have the expertise to get involved in hazardous chemicals. And how can this be policed when people may be selling online from outside the UK?

Hearing from the HSE

The HSE have just published another 4 MCL technical reports, although that does not mean these substances will necessarily be brought into the UK Mandatory Classification List. As usual, you can download these reports from… via the HSE GB CLP Publication Table.

The list itself is in excel format, and needs to be downloaded onto your device to be read, but this does mean that the HSE website is very stable.

Keeping an eye on ECHA

Speaking of regulators’ websites, many parts of the ECHA website will be down from one minute past midnight on Saturday morning (10:01pm Friday night UK time) until 9 am on Monday morning (7:00 am UK time). This is a significant outage and presumably due to some kind of major update or repair work being carried out.

Iceland (the country, not the UK supermarket chain) are now accepting Poison Centre Notifications via the Portal. Heidi Rasikari announced yesterday on ECHA’s Poison Centre group on LinkedIn (if you are involved in PCN for the EU, you can join this group for free, Heidi and her team are very helpful –

Their overview of member states decisions on implementing Annex VIII to CLP will be updated “soon”, you can find the current version here:… . Only Bulgaria and Slovakia seem to be using their own PCN systems now.

In other news, ECHA have announced that they reviewed even more chemicals than ever in 2021, thanks to “grouping”… . But does that mean a better quality of review, or are they just “painting by numbers” and missing out on more accurate decisions?

UK Chemical Trade update

The current edition of the Chemical Industry Journal cites a CIA survey as “growth continues, but concerns remain”, see… .

The strike currently under way at Felixstowe Docks is likely to have a detrimental effect on our already fragile chemical supply chains, see…. Has anyone else noticed that this has been called, rather cynically, across the Bank Holiday weekend?

Another plastic recycling breakthrough?

A new method of splitting plastics back into component chemicals for reuse using less ruthenium catalyst… . Thanks to Cliff Green for sharing via LinkedIn.

UK stamps with barcodes

If you occasionally buy stamps for your business or personally, you may have noticed a new format, the stamp itself with a separate slim stamp with a barcode next to it. The Royal Mail website has some waffle about “connecting physical and digital post”,…,.

A cynic might point out that it’s a sneaky way of checking when the stamps were bought and whether they are valid. This is to resolve a problem of Royal Mail’s own making. Ever since they brought in the 1st and 2nd Class stamps without a price on them, it’s been a sneaky money-saving tip to buy these stamps before a price increase, then use them up, effectively paying the old price for postage. Priced stamps are still in use, of course, but less widely used than they used to be. The fact that unpriced stamps are only valid until 31st January 2023 rather backs up this theory.

Prior to the un-priced stamps becoming widespread, a price change meant we all had to buy 1p and 2p stamps (or whatever the price difference was) to use up our old stamps. It will be interesting to see if these bar-coded stamps become invalid at the next postage price rise. Call me old-fashioned, but wouldn’t it just be easier to revert to showing the price on all stamps?

Jobs update (UK stats from LinkedIn)

Regulatory affairs 1,125 jobs and Health and safety 68,673 jobs, a decrease in both types of job. It’s a bit of a concern that the Regulatory Affairs jobs are now at around half of their level from 6 weeks ago. But don’t be downhearted if you’re looking for work, as it’s the August Bank Holiday weekend coming up (although not for Scotland, who took an earlier August Bank Holiday), and there may be some more jobs available once the business year begins in September.

Our friends at CBA are looking for a “Regulatory and Supply Chain Support” person…

VRS Regulatory are recruiting a regulatory and certification officer for a natural flavours and fragrance company, see .

If you are looking for work, some advice from an American recruiter on people who tend to do better at interviews:… .

Process Safety Corner

Recent incidents

The Trish and Traci podcast is back! Trish Kerin of the IChemE Process Safety Centre and Traci Purdum, of Chemical Processing discuss the San Bruno pipeline explosion of 9th September 2010, and lessons learned from it, including grandfathering of standards, and incorrect drawings:… . A very useful podcast, including an excellent discussion on the differences between “spiking” and true pressure testing of pipelines; and how as-built drawings should be essential parts of the design and build process. As usual, this podcast has the text beneath it if you’ve not got time to listen to the whole thing.

The Weekend Read

A very interesting article by Dr Rob Long on “Myths and Symbols in Safety” .

I was particularly intrigued by an almost casual remark about “In a similar way we see projected ‘truths’ of linearity and causality with the “Swiss cheese”…“, as I have always had a problem with that model of major accidents, where the idea seems to be that barriers are in place and incidents can only occur where there are no barriers and the incident passes through the holes in the cheese.

That’s the reason! The visual model of the Swiss Cheese is linear! And most major accidents are definitely not linear, having multiple causes which may result in the incident only happening due to a number of concomitant failures (which is why I prefer the Bow Tie model, which can show these things, and interconnected problems a lot better).

Do you have a favourite model for major accidents, or is that just my inner nerd showing?

The Weekend Recipe

Today’s recipe ought to be seasonal as we should be in peak bilberry season, but if, like us, you’re suffering from a lack of bilberries, you may be able to find bottled bilberries in syrup. Morrisons used to stock these regularly until Sir Ken took them public, but word on the internet is that you may be able to find them in Polish shops.

Yorkshire Pudding Muckymouth Pie

  • 4 oz plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 pint of milk and water mixed together
  • 8 oz bilberries (washed if fresh, or drained of as much liquid as possible if using bottled bilberries, pat dry with kitchen towel)
  • 4 oz white sugar (but omit or reduce if using bottled bilberries, as the syrup usually makes them sweet enough)

Method: preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, then put your yorkshire pudding tin into the oven with a little lard or dripping to heat through. Mix the flour, egg and milk together to make a batter. Mix the bilberries and sugar (if using any) together, and stir into the batter. Pour into the pre-heated tin and bake until crispy and golden, about 25 minutes.

I’ve not been able to source bilberries to test this recipe, but it should be absolutely delicious. There’s a recipe for traditional Muckymouth Pie i.e. bilberry pie in the 31st July 2020 edition of the newsletter. (If you haven’t a log-in for the website at, where the archive sits, you can sign up here:… and don’t worry, you won’t receive two copies of the newsletter!).

Why “Chemicals Coffee Time”?

When I was working in the chemical industry at Rhone-Poulenc (as it then was) Leeds site, we had “coffee time” at 10:30 every morning, and 3:00 pm in the afternoon in the labs, when everyone would come out of their labs (if they weren’t busy) and we’d chat around the coffee machine at the bottom of the stairwell.

This was a great way to get everyone together informally, QC chemists from the bottom floor, R&D chemists from the middle floor, and Technical Service chemists (including me) and our Microbiologist from the top floor. We occasionally had whoever was running the Pilot Plant across as well, either a chemist or chemical engineer, and sometimes the Shift Supervisor or Production Manager would pop in.

We used to talk about everything – news, music, food, impossible crossword clues, you name it, and it was also where the problems which people couldn’t solve were discussed and often worked through. This daily informal communication (along with everyone eating in the works canteen) on a relatively small site meant that communication lines were very good, and with hindsight, I believe that this was one reason the site was very successful.

As our regular reasons will be aware, when I set up this newsletter at the start of Lockdown 1, I did it to support people in my network who were adjusting to either working from home, or working on site without their usual team around them. Having worked from home myself for many years, I’m aware of what a big transition it is, and I wanted to let people keep in touch with each other and what was happening in the chemical industry (particularly our Chemical Regulations Self Help Group members, but also my lovely clients).

What I’ve realised in hindsight is that this newsletter is very like our discussions round the coffee machine, a broad spectrum of topics, a pinch of opinion, and always some humour. The name “Chemicals Coffee Time” also implies we can discuss work, it’s not a break from chemicals, just a chance to pause for a bit from our main work and catch up on other issues. I’m also deeply touched that many readers have made this newsletter part of the weekly routine, and read it with a cup of coffee (other beverages are available, of course).

So I hope you like the new name for the newsletter. It certainly means a lot to me, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you and keeping you up to date going forward.

Reasons to be cheerful

A very appropriate Two Ronnies as the signs of a recession are starting to appear, Minister of Cuts:

Many thanks for reading this newsletter, and many thanks to everyone who has contributed to it this week. As usual, if you have anything you’d like to share, please email me and I’ll do my best to include it in the next newsletter.

I hope you have a good day today and a lovely weekend with your family and friends. Take care, stay safe and I hope to be able to write to you next week.

Kind regards,


Janet Greenwood

TT Environmental Ltd

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