There was much discussion before the EU referendum took place on 23rd June about the implications of Britain choosing to leave the European Union on our Health and Safety legislation. Not surprising as about two-thirds of UK regulations introduced in the past 25 or so years have originated from the EU. However there was a considered view among health and safety professionals that changes would be less fundamental than some feared.
A ‘potential hit list’ was published in an article at the end of May in the IOSH Magazine (the official publication of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) as an indication of the changes to safety and health regulation that the government might choose to make in the event of a vote to Brexit. A 2014 report by the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) called on the EU to:
- increase flexibility for member states to determine written risk assessment requirements for “small, low-risk” business
- repeal the artificial optical radiation Directive
- repeal the requirement for employers to meet the costs of eye and eyesight tests
- exclude private householders from the duties on construction project clients, as implemented in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 in the UK
- provide member states with the flexibility to determine in what circumstances duty holders should provide information on their emergency arrangements to the emergency services
- adapt the safety signs Directive so that these are required only where there are significant hazards
- remove the duplication of provisions in the Framework Directive and “individual” directives relating to risk assessment, health surveillance, protective and preventive services, employee consultation and participation, and the provision of information, training and instruction to employees.
Following the referendum, IOSH issued the following statement;
“Post-Brexit, the UK now has less influence over EU law. Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health and safety system, which includes laws from EU directives, because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews and is respected and imitated across the world.
“IOSH will continue to promote agreed international standards and to defend against any erosion of health and safety protections.
“As UK organisations will want to continue to trade with Europe, it will be in everyone’s interest to maintain the status quo.
“The UK has already helped to influence sound foundations for European health and safety and beyond and our expertise will continue to be sought and valued.”
There is no doubt that, post-Brexit, some legislation could be removed or altered and that, without a change of government, we may find ourselves in an increasingly deregulatory climate. However the need to maintain a strong trading relationship with the EU and the widely-acknowledged strength of the UK’s current regulatory framework are likely to ensure that the “No” vote will not bring about a dismantling of that framework.