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Does the retained EU Law Bill threaten health and safety protections?

By Victoria Brown

By Victoria Brown

Victoria discusses the potential implications of the UK Government’s retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill on health and safety protections.

You may or may not have heard of the UK Government’s retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill on health and safety protections.  The implication for works is potentially massive.  If approved, the Bill will remove 2,400 health and safety laws that were enacted during the UK’s time as an EU member. Whether or not they would be reinstated in some fashion is not yet clear.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 bought comprehensive health and safety reforms and swept away the previous mishmash of strung together legislation. It set up governing bodies and sought to improve the health and safety of people in all industries. This has also been added to throughout the years, and the impact has been dramatic.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Scaffolding Association, the British Safety Council and many other Institutions in the health and safety sphere are all sounding an alarm against withdrawing these laws, and for good reason. The laws include many that apply to the construction industry, which is still the most dangerous industry in the UK, with deaths four times higher than other industry averages. We need to make sure that these protections are kept, to protect workers.

EU derived health and safety regulations support the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974.  They include the ‘six pack’ regulations, which cover;

-The management of health and safety at work

-Manual handling operations

-The use of display screen equipment

-Provision and use of personal protective equipment

EU derived regulations also include specific areas of risk, such as construction, work at height, asbestos, control of hazardous substances.

Whilst the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 would remain, the EU derived regulations at risk of quite literally disappearing overnight, are what regulators and business owners have set their standards by.  The regulations support the Act by being more specific about what compliance looks like.

I am concerned that there would be an uncertainty about how to comply with the Act, resulting in businesses more likely to be prosecuted for failing to protect their employees and public.  Removal of these regulations would risk increasing accidents, work related injuries and ill health.

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