Health and Safety after Brexit

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Unless you have been hiding out in a cave somewhere over the past 3 years, you will have heard about Brexit.

On the 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union, and it hasn’t been off the news since. While Brexit will impact many parts of our lives, we want to focus on how it is going to impact health and safety in the UK. If at all.

We touched on this topic a while ago – How Will Brexit Impact Health And Safety For Your Business? – and it is worthwhile taking another look. That blog was over 3 years ago, and a lot has happened since then. It can be incredibly hard to keep on top of Brexit developments because it dominates the news, and it can be easy to switch off.

We’re going to look at:

  • How health and safety will be impacted by Brexit
  • What happens in a No-deal scenario
  • How you can find out more information for your business

By the end of this update, you should know a lot more about Brexit and health and safety in the UK.

When is Brexit happening?

You’d think that this would be a straightforward answer, but it is the opposite.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31st October 2019. We’ve been here before where the UK government has asked for an extension to try and work out a deal so whether or not we do leave on that date is still up for debate.

The UK can ask for an extension; however, there is no guarantee that it will be granted. We’ll have a look at what could happen to health and safety in a No-deal scenario below but for the time being (and this could change), we are leaving the EU on 31/10/2019.

What will change after Brexit?

Most of the health and safety regulations we have adopted over the past 3 decades originated from the EU.

Before we get into any directives that have come from the European Union, the primary piece of legislation that governs health and safety in general in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. This particular piece of legislation is from the UK, so it is unlikely to change post-Brexit. This is also true of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and various other pieces of legislation.

In the short term, the UK leaving the EU is unlikely to have much of an impact on health and safety in practice. Employers should continue to comply with current laws.

The Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 should come into force after Brexit and this will make sure that EU-derived health and safety protections will be implemented after we leave.

What about chemicals, explosives and machinery?

There are some specific parts of health and safety that you may be worried about after Brexit.

The Health and Safety Executive is the best resource to find out what will happen to these particular issues when the UK leaves the European Union. You can find out about chemical industry guidance as well as regulating explosives.

When it comes to the regulation of work equipment and machinery, there have been some amendments to current regulations that have removed references to the EU.

In the event of a No-deal

A No-deal Brexit remains a possibility. This is where we leave the EU without an arrangement for what happens after. You can read a bit more about what No-deal means and how it could impact the UK here.

Even if this situation does occur your responsibilities as an employer and your duties towards keeping your employees safe will not change.

That being said, a No-deal scenario may make things slightly different from a health and safety perspective. You can find guidance from the Health and Safety Executive here.

Health and Safety after Brexit

Brexit continues to dominate the news and looks likely to do so for a while yet.

In the world of health and safety, Brexit isn’t expected to have a significant impact – at least not initially. Even though many of our health and safety regulations have come from the EU, measures are in place to ensure that our current standards and regulations will be maintained. That said, like anything with the Brexit process, there is some disagreement over the impact it’ll have on health and safety at work

Even in a No-deal scenario, there isn’t much that is likely to change in terms of safety standards in the short term. Your duties to your staff as an employer and for employees to follow procedures will remain the same.

As with anything to do with Brexit things can change pretty quickly, so keep checking back on our blog to continue to be updated throughout the process of leaving the EU.

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