What could Brexit mean for UK Health & Safety Laws?
Our departure from the EU is fast coming around – it may have seemed like ages away when the process started in 2017 but as of 29th August we will only be seven months from the big exit. Even with the planned transitional period up to 31 Dec 2020, we will have to be prepared for some changes to the health and safety sector, especially to those regulations and legislation that have been largely derived from EU directives.
One of the largest changes to the legislation that governs the construction industry in recent years was to the CDM Regulations 2015; when these came into force, they replaced the 2007 Regulations and introduced further key actions to regulate health and safety in the construction industry. The changes made were substantial and essential and transposed from European Directive 92/57/EEC – if any changes are to be made to this type of legislation, it may be within key areas such as the CDM Regulations.
It should be noted here that the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 was derived wholly from the UK and is much less likely to see any changes as a direct result of Brexit.
That said, a recent review by NEBOSH did highlight a few key facts:
- The UK’s health and safety regime is largely seen as having set a benchmark for others to follow in Europe.
- The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill intends to incorporate all EU legislation into UK law in one go to ensure a “calm and orderly” exit.
- The Government looks likely to try and maintain strong free trade ties with the EU, which will most likely require adherence to the kind of standards and regulations already in place
- A regulatory framework sends a strong message not only within industry, but to the rest of the world about the level of importance a country places on people’s health, safety and welfare at work
- The health and safety laws that have come into force seen we joined the EU have seen the number of workplace related fatalities drop significantly, from 166 in 1974 to 30 in 2017.
NEBOSH did go on to note that some legislation, such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, have previously been challenged by the EU. This is the type of Regulation that could be reviewed and changed, if indeed, any changes will be made at all.
Obviously, it is important to realise that any changes or relaxation in the rules surrounding UK health and safety in the workplace could lead to increased accidents and risks, which in turn would have a negative impact on productivity and morale. The potential implications of making changes, especially major changes, are enough to warrant a lot of thought and deliberation by the government before anything is announced or goes into force, so just because Brexit has an end date doesn’t mean our laws will too.
Of course, right now we’re all speculating – uncertainty is, unfortunately, the name of the game where Brexit is concerned. Recent news about “no deal” has reawoken a lot of the original debates about whether leaving the EU is the right thing for the country, and what this may mean for our industry, finances, healthcare, trade etc. ‘Watch this space’ has never seemed more appropriate…..