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June 24, 2016

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Brexit: health and safety industry reacts


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.”

IOSH on Brexit

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.”

IEMA on Brexit

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.”

BSIF on Brexit

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.”


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David A Wilson
David A Wilson
7 years ago

Well done everyone, contrary to the view of the British media who have a vested interest in pumping everyone up, we should all calm down, we are not doomed there are wonderful opportunities ahead, but at least now if we don’t like the policies we have an opportunity to remove our politicians, that’s democracy.
The EU is an unelected and undemocratic dictatorship, I’m very pleased with the outcome.

George Birkett
George Birkett
7 years ago

Having spent some years visiting sites around Europe as a Safety and Installation Engineer, I am more than sure that BREXIT will not impact on H&S in the UK. A large percentage of the sites I visited would not have been allowed to function in our country. Many showed scant regard for even the basic fundamentals of safety, and were less than gracious when their shortcomings were highlighted. The UK has always fronted H&S while many others merely pay lip service. This will, I am sure, continue to be the case.

7 years ago

Perhaps I have missed it, but having been around when EEC/EU began, I reckon that POLITICIANS wanted the EU in 1975, so they fixed things so they got what they wanted. In 1974 the Health & safety @Work act came into law as a result of the Robens report which updated the 1961 factories Act! (I worked in the area shortly after the 1974 Act became LAW!!) All around the world nations have emulated this Act, and when we joined the EU the 1974 Act was already in place. All the additions from the EU have been included into British… Read more »

Martin Oldroyd
Martin Oldroyd
7 years ago

Interesting article. However the influence of insurance companies [the ease at which one can get Liability Insurance], and the common law right to claim for injury does have an effect on the quality of systems organisations put in. This is further supplemented by the genuine will of companies to ensure zero harm to their employees. Couple that with the World leading Health and legislation we had in place anyway one really needs to ask do we need EU legislation.

Simon Joyston-Bechal
Simon Joyston-Bechal
7 years ago

If the Brexit vote ever delivers us to a world outside the single market and beyond the control of the European Court of Justice, with the government looking for a way to ease the burden of red tape in health & safety without unravelling the system, then I would make this suggestion: Remove the reverse burden of proof from H&S offences. This change is now needed to redress the balance, in light of the new much stricter sentencing guidelines for individuals, who since February 2016 face a much lower threshold for imprisonment. When the reverse burden of proof was last… Read more »

Rob Gwyther
Rob Gwyther
7 years ago

The SHP article and the subsequent comments base the case for little anticipated change on solid rationale. But this misses the point. The Brexit argument was hardly one of intellectual rigour, and since the Referendum we have seen their leaders descend into even further banality and half-truth. In their desire over the next few years to show that Brexit was worthwhile – and to further appeal to emotion and myth – the reformed Conservatives will wish to demonstrate their forcefulness in “cutting red tape”. Far Right politics is about venom, revenge and bullying – not considered intellectual views. So we… Read more »

Brexit: health and safety industry reacts – ssdsafety
7 years ago

[…] 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?https://www.shponline.co.uk/brexit-health-and-safety-reacts/ […]