Removing the EU as the originating authority on UK's "six pack" of health and safety regulations could trigger a review process, a leading health and safety barrister has predicted.
The six pack – a group of regulations dating from January 1992 – are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Display Screen Equipment Regulations (DSE), the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), the Manual Handling Operations Regulations and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (PPE).
Gerard Forlin QC, of Cornerstone Barristers, predicted that a post-Brexit government would need to review the regs – updating, modifying or even strengthening them – as the underpinning EU principles would no longer apply.
He said: "If you look at PUWER, for example, they say that you have to have CE marking on equipment – this is the kind of thing that would have to be reviewed.
"I'm not saying it would be diminished, but some of the legislation may need to be reviewed and modified if we're not in the EU. The directives could either be left alone, domesticated into English law, or modified."
Employment laws that are considered to impose a burden on businesses include the Working Time Regulations, based in the EU's Working Time Directive, and the Agency Workers Directive, which guarantees equal pay rights for agency workers after 12 weeks. Forlin also told Health and Safety at Work that there could be health and safety implications if EU-derived employment legislation was reviewed.
Forlin said: "I think the issues arise on areas that don't sit directly with health and safety, such as employment protection. There are health and safety issues here – tired workers are also dangerous workers."
The British Safety Council also lent support to the idea that there could be a review of the EU-derived legislative framework for health and safety.
In a statement, Louise Ward, director of policy and standards, said that the UK's legislative framework has its origins in European directives, even if they were later incorporated into UK law.
She said: "Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, and depending on the terms of any future agreements, there may be a need to review the framework. Caution is required here if we are to continue to maintain our current standards and protect the health and safety of workers in the UK. The objective must be to judge each element of the framework on its own merits and effectiveness not just on its origin."
But Crispin Kenyon, partner in the regulatory services department at law firm Weightmans, pointed out that EU-derived regulation had survived two previous government-backed reviews, by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt and Richard Matthews QC, as well as the ongoing "Red Tape Challenge".
"I don't see why there should be a different attitude after Brexit," he said. "The regulations seem to work – statistically, we have a better safety record than all the other countries across Europe. Why would we want to change everything?"
Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, also said that the current regime was broadly agreed to work. "The fact is the UK's health and safety regime has already been extensively reviewed and found fit for purpose. As we all know, lots of simplification and tidying of the statute book has already taken place – there isn't scope for much more."
This article was published by Health + Safety at Work on 28th June 2016.