Retained EU Law Bill threatens health and safety protections, says CIEH

05 December 2022, Mark Hope

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has expressed serious concern about the impact of the UK Government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill on health and safety protections.

The Bill puts a whole raft of EU-derived health and safety regulations at risk of ‘sunsetting’ and disappearing overnight.

In its response to a call for evidence from a House of Commons Public Bill Committee CIEH highlighted that the removal of these regulations would risk increasing accidents, work related injuries and ill health.

EU-derived health and safety regulations support the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 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; health, safety and welfare at work; the provision and use of work equipment; and the provision and use of personal protective equipment.

EU-derived regulations also include regulations that cover specific areas of risk, such as asbestos, construction, work at height, gas safety and the control of hazardous substances.

The Bill puts all of the EU-derived regulations at risk of being sunsetted. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act would remain but, over the last thirty years, regulators and businesses alike have become accustomed to the standards set by these regulations.

The Act sets out broad duties but is otherwise light on the detail of how compliance should be achieved. The regulations support the Act by laying out more specifically what compliance with the duties looks like.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

“There are very real concerns about the impact of the Retained EU Law Bill on our country’s health and safety protections, with the potential for many of the regulations we take for granted simply disappearing overnight.

Our members are concerned that without the regulations businesses would be ‘stumbling around in the dark’ as to how to ensure they are complying with their duties under the Act. There would be more variation in standards and securing improvements in businesses would be more difficult.

There is also a concern that, given uncertainty about how to comply with the Act, businesses would find themselves more likely to be prosecuted for failing to protect their staff and the public.

With regard to enforcement, the regulations help to set a benchmark that supports proportionality and consistency.

We recognise the need for planned and thorough reviews of regulations with a proper process of consultation. We do not believe, however, that this Bill provides suitable mechanisms for conducting such reviews.

The UK has a proud record on health and safety. The removal of EU-derived health and safety regulations would risk increasing accidents, work related injuries and ill health and thereby jeopardise that record.”

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