The majority of British health and safety (H&S) regulations introduced over the past 25 years have stemmed from the European Union (EU). As Britain prepares to leave the EU, it raises the question: what happens to the H&S laws governing industry and how else might leaving the EU impact on the safe guarding of employees at work?
On 29 March 2017, Britain submitted its intention to leave the EU. This means that, unless a sanctioned withdrawal agreement establishes another date as of 30 March 2019, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU.
It is important to remember that the main principles that require employers to assess, avoid and reduce workplace risks to their employees are embedded in current H&S legislation. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of Brexit, employers should continue to comply with the existing H&S laws.
Although leaving the EU could have an impact on H&S legislation, it is unlikely to be immediate. In the long run the government will be able to remove laws from the statute list, however existing legislation will stay in place until the negotiation period has finished. Following this, Britain will continue to apply its risk-based H&S structure, which includes laws from EU directives.
The key principles of risk management contained in The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and other acts and legislation will continue.
The Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 will become effective on the day the UK leaves the EU. These regulations will ensure that EU-derived health and safety protections will continue to be enforced after Britain has left the EU.
Of the published regulations, only four were amended, these being:
The Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996
The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010
The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.
The amendments are all designed to ensure current legislation can still be applied after Brexit. They mainly look at definitions and, where possible, replace EU directives with references to other relevant British legislation. Where that’s not possible, they provide a clear definition within the amended regulation.
All changes are purely required to ensure regulations are still applicable within the legal framework when it sits outside of the EU. The amendments will not change the requirements and expectations placed on employers.
Employers can be assured that the procedures and processes they have in place on 31 March 2019 will remain relevant on 1 April 2019.
Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises. To find out how we can help you, contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Gary Broadley, Senior Health & Safety Consultant