In one of the final sessions of Safety & Health Expo yesterday, Kizzy Augustin, senior associate at Pinsent Masons LLP, talked to delegates about what the potential impacts on health and safety would be if Britain left the EU. With the news this morning that Britain has voted to leave the EU with a 51.9% majority, we reflect on Kizzy’s comments about what the potential impacts on health and safety could be if Britain left the EU, and round up comments from professional bodies.
The UK had been a trailblazer in health and safety, senior associate at Pinsent Masons LLP, Kizzy Augustin, told delegates in the final day’s Safety talks session at Safety & Health Expo. So what potential impact could Brexit have?
“We’ve got an international reputation for reducing work-related injuries, and the best health and safety records in Europe,” she said. Although there was a perceived burden of EU regulation and “excessive red tape”, it was likely that the UK’s ‘gold standard’ would remain.
“Around 90% of these laws would have existed without the EU,” she said, so Brexit was unlikely to change anything significant soon. Although the government would ultimately be able to remove laws from the statute books, existing legislation would need to stay in place at least for the two-year renegotiation period for the terms of the UK’s relationship with Europe.
There were, however, potential impacts on areas such as human rights and food safety. “Can we trust the UK government to maintain these standards?” she asked delegates. Changes to the Working Time Directive could also have an impact on levels of workplace stress, while the curtailment of free movement could further exacerbate staff and skills shortages in construction and other sectors.
“Nothing would happen for two years,” she stated. “But if there’s a significant impact on the economy then that could mean businesses are less likely to invest proactively in health and safety.”
The UK health and safety system must remain, post-Brexit, the head of policy and public affairs at IOSH has said.
Richard Jones said: “Post-Brexit, the UK now has less influence over EU law. 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.
“As UK organisations will want to continue to trade with Europe, it will be in everyone’s interest to maintain the status quo.
“The UK has already helped to influence sound foundations for European health and safety and beyond and our expertise will continue to be sought and valued.”
Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor, said: “The referendum vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU raises significant questions for businesses, professionals and the wider public on environmental protection policy.
In the lead-up to the referendum, IEMA members were overwhelmingly of the view that being a member of the EU is good for business and good for the environment. There was a real concern that environment and climate policy risked being watered down if the vote was to leave. Environment and sustainability professionals will now look to the future with some sense of uncertainty.
It is therefore essential that the government gives a commitment that, in negotiating the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, an equivalent or enhanced level of environmental protection and climate policy will be implemented here in the UK.
In establishing the UK’s future direction, Government must develop progressive policies for the UK to transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy which delivers real social value over the long-term. It must seize the opportunity to accelerate the transformational change needed to meet long-term sustainability challenges and provide a much-needed boost to UK jobs and productivity.
An immediate test of the Government’s commitment to environment and sustainability lies in the adoption of the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget. We urge the Government to adopt the independent Committee on Climate Change recommendation for a 57% emissions reduction, giving a clear and positive signal of its long-term environmental commitment.
IEMA is committed to providing leadership and support to ensure that environment and sustainability are placed at the heart of decision making and that policies are in place to develop a sustainable economy for the future.”
Alan Murray, CEO of the BSIF, said: “During the referendum campaign the UK electorate was clamouring for “facts” when there were none. Now that the referendum result has been determined there seems to be an insatiable appetite for comment on what will happen going forward. The BSIF cannot of course second guess the impacts or consequences of any potential changes created by the decision to leave the EU.
“In the coming weeks we will doubtless have many rumours and misinformation to deal with and the BSIF will be seeking early guidance from UKTI / BIS on their position. The Personal Protective Equipment market in the UK has been based on EU directives for a generation and after years of discussion the new Regulation (EU) 2016/425 came “into force” in April this year and we can only at this stage assume that the market will continue to recognise it. The Federation will work diligently with legislators to be on the inside of any discussions, and we will ensure that members of the BSIF are kept up to date with all pertinent developments.
“What we do know is that the UK has led the world in Occupational Safety and Health and the Federation remains dedicated to making sure that Safety and Health is properly recognised in this country as a force for good. Irrespective of the momentous changes we now face in our political landscape, the Federation will continue to ensure safety and health is acknowledged as an important sphere in Government policy and it is regarded as synomymous with good business practice. Within this, the BSIF’s Registered Safety Supplier Scheme will further strengthen Occupational Safety by ensuring that the market is supplied with quality personal protective equipment provided through a capable supply chain.”