BREXIT - Health and safety chess, draughts or Chequers?
With the political conference season over and just under 6 months to our departure from the European Union, where might health and safety be come April 2019?
We have, by most measures, a world leading health and safety culture and performance. That isn’t to say it is perfect, nor we should we ever take it for granted, good health, safety and wellbeing after all doesn’t happen by accident. But what is the gambit for health and safety in a post EU UK?
- Legally, while much of the health and safety regulation we have is derived from the EU (although many have our own take on them – there is a difference between Directive and Framework Directive), the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 remains wholly ours.
- Financially, the sentencing guidelines for health and safety introduced in 2016 are for our courts and this shouldn’t change - accepting the duty they currently have on the interpretation of EU derived national law.
- Morally, with the exception of a small blip on asbestos, our interpretation and implementation of regulations does look to capture the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Many of the requirements, covering workplaces, DSE, manual handling and management, tackle the vast majority of the more common hazards too. Will we want to change these?
- Reputationally, as a number of commentators have identified, the draft Health and Safety (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, are seeking to “maintain the protections afforded by health and safety legislation” and “do not impose any new liabilities or obligations on relevant persons". There was nothing in Chequers to indicate a change in stance either on health and safety and I’m guessing any substantive changes would have at least needed to be flagged.
The one area of longer term concern is once out of the EU, the commitment to continually look to improve worker health and safety could be lost. This could mean health and safety becomes much more an individual party political issue. However, while our latest figures show trend ‘reductions’ in workplace fatal injuries and reported RIDDOR incidents - lost time and cost to the economy of ill health and injury are increasing - and that is less good for output and productivity. Zugzwang in draughts terms?