Brexit – The Likely Impact on Health and Safety
Here at Safety Fabrications we like to keep up to date with what’s going on in the construction industry, particularly when it comes to health and safety, a topic that’s vital to us as we fabricate safe access equipment such as safety ladders, work platforms, walkways and fall protection posts. Over the past few weeks we’ve been taking a look at the coming referendum and how a Brexit vote is likely to affect the sector as a whole. Today, we’re taking a look at the implications a Brexit is likely to have on health and safety in the workplace here in the UK.
At present every industry in the UK is under the influence of the EU in some way or another, whether via EU Regulations which apply directly to UK law or via EU Directives which oblige UK legislation to introduce its provisions.
Campaigners have been dubbed on social media (where the debate rages almost non-stop) as BREXITeers and REMAINers. Brexiteers claim that excessive EU red tape is stifling business competition here in the UK, particularly when it comes to SMEs. With small businesses accounting for a massive 99.3% of all private sector business, the issue of red tape is likely to play a major part in how people vote on 23rd June. According to Brexiteers, UK businesses are likely to prosper with fewer rules imposed by Brussels. As for health and safety issues, they claim that Britain is a trailblazer in that area and that we already have one of the best health and safety records in the world.
Safety professionals here in the UK believe that the UK’s progress in health and safety has overtaken other European countries and that we have a more mature safety culture than most. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive’s expertise is often sought by overseas organisations as our health and safety standards are often the global benchmark.
The EU’s most important piece of occupational safety and health legislation is the Framework Directive which is implemented here in the UK by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These Regulations require that employers evaluate, avoid and reduce risks in the workplace.
While nobody can be sure what effect a Brexit would have when it comes to our government’s regulatory approach, regulation is one of the main topics of debate right now. According to the Trades Union Council, European regulation has played an important role in protecting working people from exploitation and they cite that 41 of the 65 new health and safety regulations introduced between 1997 and 2009 originated in the EU. The TUC goes on to say that the European Commission has adopted a more anti-regulatory approach in recent years with the number of new directives halved over the past five years, a trend that is expected to continue. In fact, the EU’s most recent Work Programme actually abandoned 80 health and safety proposals, introducing a mere 23.
The TUC believes that the overall contribution of EU regulations on health and safety in the workplace here in the UK has been substantial and that the overall package of Directives is practical, fit for purpose and effective.