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BREXIT: IMPLICATIONS FOR H&S LEGAL FRAMEWORK

CDM Regulations 2015 could be prime candidate for reform spotlight

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health Magazine Editor Louis Wustemann has published a piece entitled – Brexit: what will happen to OSH regulation?

Wustemann was previously editor of Health and Safety at Work magazine and Environment in Business. He has written, edited and consulted on health and safety, environmental and employment matters for more than 25 years.

Extracts from the article are reproduced below.

“How much of our worker protection legislation will be reset depends on a combination of economic and political necessity.

There is no doubting the union’s influence on our safety and health law. The think tank Open Europe calculated that two-thirds of OSH-related regulations introduced between 1997 and 2009 originated in the EU. But there are good reasons not to unpick our framework, however it was acquired and however “glorious” the opportunity for change.

We will probably see no attempt to amend most of the standards and thresholds that came to us via directives – there is enough research supporting metrics such as the 85dBA and 80dBA action levels for workplace noise, to make them unlikely targets for reform.

IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones responded to the vote to leave saying:

“Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health and safety system, which includes laws from EU directives, because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews and is respected and imitated across the world. IOSH will continue to promote agreed international standards and to defend against any erosion of health and safety protections.”

The former chair of the UK Parliament’s EU scrutiny committee, Michael Connarty, made much the same point when he noted 90% of EU legislation in force in the UK would probably have been introduced even without our obligations as a member state.

So what might we change? As Howard Fidderman pointed out in his recent article for this magazine, likely candidates for eventual revision or abolition include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations – to remove duties for domestic clients, the Optical Radiation Regulations, the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations – increasing the hazard threshold that requires a warning and removing the requirement in the Display Screen Equipment Regulations for employers to pay for workers’ eye tests.

The government has also expressed an interest in changing requirements for written risk assessments for businesses in what it sees as low-risk sectors and it has a longstanding irritation with the EU-derived Working Time Regulations.

Any further attempts to reduce protection would most likely be triggered only if the UK’s economy was threatened by a decline in trade and inward investment, deregulation would be one way to try to try to restore our position as an attractive base off the European mainland, speaking the international business lingua franca. That’s a position we will otherwise cede to Ireland.

(A period of economic contraction could also result in more cuts for the UK’s main OSH regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, which is already due to have lost 47% of its government grant over the 10 years to 2020.)

These scenarios assume we retain a conservative government. It’s hard to imagine a Labour administration would have health and safety deregulation on its agenda.”

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