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Campaign grows to save health & safety laws from Brexit revocation

30 Jan 23 The health and safety industry has warned the government that it might not be a good idea to throw out every European-related law.

For the bin?
For the bin?

To satisfy Brexit headbangers in the Conservative Party, the government is trying to abolish all laws that were drafted at a European Union level, regardless of their merit.

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, currently in parliament, proposes that all retained EU laws are to be repealed by 31st December this year unless parliamentary time can be found to convert them into national law.

The bill spans thousands of legislative areas, including construction, the environment, food safety and standards, product safety including toys, rules on child seatbelts, and hazardous substance and chemical safety.

EU-derived health and safety regulations support the Health and Safety at Work Act, including the ‘six pack’ regulations, covering health and safety at work, manual handling operations (LOLER), the use of display screen equipment, health, safety and welfare at work, the provision and use of work equipment (PUWER) and the provision and use of PPE.

Seven health & safety organisations have joined forces to tell the government that this arbitrary deadline could damage the UK’s record of leadership in health and safety.

“Given Britain’s long-standing record as a global leader in health and safety, we understand the need for continuous improvement and how regularly reviewing legislation can build more effective frameworks,” their letter says. “However, we are concerned that the timeframe set forth for implementing the Retained EU Law Bill could lead to increased harm. While we agree the revision and improvement of UK health and safety laws would be positive, we are conscious that better regulation is not de-regulation.

“To ensure the safety and health outcomes of Britain’s workforce and therefore the resilience of its businesses, regulations must be reviewed sensibly, with due scrutiny and in consultation with both the occupational safety and health profession and business leaders. Rushing to implement the Bill as it stands, without clarity on which laws the Bill covers, and with the sunset clauses it contains, will undermine our health and safety standards and protections.”

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The organisations behind the letter are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the British Safety Council (BSC), the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM), the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

The letter continues: “Ultimately, we need more time and a more transparent process. Time to take an evidence-based approach, to treat each law individually, and to look at the overarching reason the law was originally passed. Every law has a considered aim and intention. And it is this aim and intention that we must carefully consider against the needs and necessary protections of workers and their rights, and the needs of all people and business, today and in the future, to be safe, healthy and sustainable.

“Whether we’re looking at child safety, occupational health and safety, road safety or home safety, our approach remains the same. We want to ensure that the UK is protected by relevant, evidence-based laws – and to be assured that we have taken the time to treat each one of the thousands of pieces of legislation on its individual merit.

“We therefore call upon the government to meet with us to discuss the impending Bill so that we can work together to offer constructive opinion. Put simply, we would like a thorough and inclusive consultation and engagement process, so that we do not risk a race to the bottom and strip away our people’s rights to a life free from serious accidental injury and ill health.”

As previously reported, the Access Industry Forum is campaigning to keep the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) from being thrown out or watered down to the status of mere advice.

WAHR was created in response to an EU directive – the Temporary Working at Height Directive (2001/45/EC) – but that does not make them a bad thing, the Access Industry Forum says. Fatal falls in the workplace have halved since the Work at Height Regulations came into law in 2005.

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