5 ways QR codes can help improve product compliance

Discover the potential for QR codes in regulatory compliance, alongside challenges and real-world regulatory examples.

QR codes have become ubiquitous worldwide, from download links to digital business cards and payment processing. They even feature on headstones for instant obituary access. Their versatility extends to various business applications too, including streamlining processes, enhancing information accessibility, and improving data accuracy.  It comes as no surprise that QR codes also offer significant benefits for regulatory compliance.

Here are five ways QR codes can help businesses meet legal requirements with ease and consistency.  

1. SDS QR codes for instant access

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are familiar to anyone working with chemical products and essential for regulatory compliance. Organizations are required to maintain a comprehensive and updated library of SDSs for any hazardous product that is being, or has been, used in the workplace environment. QR codes linked directly to online SDSs can allow employees to access the latest versions, reducing the burden of time-consuming and additional administrative work and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. 

Moreover, according to the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) Guidance on the compilation of safety data sheets, chemical product manufacturers must ensure ready access to relevant SDS for any given product. QR codes can streamline this process, ensuring accessibility and compliance. 


2. Less paper = greener products and processes

As the regulatory landscape leans further towards tackling environmental concerns, businesses are under pressure to find ways to operate sustainably.  

QR codes can enable manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact by minimizing the use of packaging and paper use.  

By directing users to online information, QR codes eliminate the need for additional paperwork and manuals. Not only does this contribute to a business’s efforts to be more environmentally sustainable, it also creates cost savings. 


3. Digital user instructions

 QR codes can enhance product usability by providing immediate access to assembly instructions, software, and other collateral. A quick scan can give users access to a whole range of assets, such as an instructional video, an app, or operator software. In doing so, they can improve user experience and reduce the need for printed materials. 

The convenience of QR codes applies to various industries, but especially those where detailed user instructions are required for safe and effective product use, such as in consumer electronics or medical devices.  


4. Up-to-date information

Because QR codes can direct users to information held online, they allow organizations to provide dynamic, real-time content.  

This ensures users always have access to the most recent and relevant information, which can be especially beneficial for tech companies wanting to offer software updates, or other time-sensitive data. 

In the case of SDSs, for example, printing a QR code directly onto the product or packaging guarantees access to the most up-to-date version. Previously, manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers would have needed to continually update changes for each product via email or another way. This approach runs the risk of delivery failure, or updates being overlooked.


5. Quick access to emergency contact information

Scanning a QR code is swift and simple. It is therefore a useful way to give users prompt access to emergency contact information — something that would be important in the case of poison control, fire risk, or hazardous chemical exposure.  QR codes could provide instant access to relevant information or quick access to a support team, promoting safety and compliance. 

As is often the case, pre-emptive measures are invariably the best route to prevent such emergencies in the first place. QR codes attached to machinery, for example, and linking to appropriate documentation, means any employee could be confident in having easy access to information they might need.  

Potential downsides

While QR codes are highly adaptable and suitable for a wide range of applications, there are potential drawbacks to consider.  

Connectivity may present an issue in facilities without an internet connection, although this could be overcome with the right infrastructure investment. The need for specialized equipment is another potential downside, such as the need for a portable scanner in secure locations or areas where mobile phones pose a safety risk.  


Real-world examples: QR code use cases

QR codes have already been successfully utilized to fulfil regulatory requirements. Some examples include:  

  • During the pandemic, QR codes were used for COVID-19 check-ins in hospitality to track activity and potential infections. For fire and emergency safety procedures in the workplace, employees could be asked to scan a QR code upon arrival, so that the company has an accurate list of attendance in the event of an evacuation.  
  • In the UK, energy information labeling regulations highlight QR codes as a suitable method for refrigerator suppliers to provide mandatory information on products. 
  • Unique Device Identifiers (UDI) must be present on all medical devices produced in China, according to the Rules for the Unique Device Identification System for Medical Devices. A 2019 amendment to this regulation lists QR codes as one way to include this information. 
  • Electronic information for use (eIFU) labels on medical devices in Taiwan can be provided in the form of a QR code that links directly to the eIFU online. 
  • Biocidal products on the market in Turkey must display information using a Ministry-approved label. However further information must be communicated using a QR code, according to a regulatory update in 2021. 
  • As of March 2024, any energy-consuming product in Serbia requires a QR code that provides information about the energy efficiency of the product. 


The future of compliance

QR codes provide a suitable solution for compliance in many cases. In addition, regulations around the world are starting to acknowledge and incorporate QR codes into new and updated policies.  

While some challenges exist, QR codes offer versatile solutions across industries, allowing businesses to share information or capture data. There are opportunities for businesses to enhance regulatory compliance by incorporating the use of QR codes in creative and constructive ways. QR codes are likely to play an ongoing role in regulatory compliance.  

Compliance beyond chemicals  

The use of QR codes is just one way companies are adapting to change to ensure compliance in today’s dynamic regulatory landscape. This, and other topics, exploring the emerging end-to-end product safety landscape are explored in Going beyond chemicals for end-to-end product safety: A guide to product compliance beyond chemicals.

Gain further insight into the increasing regulatory drivers and pressures across a product life cycle by accessing your copy now.  

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