UK industry apprehensive about EU health and safety proposals

British firms remain deeply concerned about the burden of health and safety legislation, and are particularly worried about additional red tape that may emanate later this year from Europe.

Two pieces of proposed European Union legislation are most concerning UK firms, a poll by the manufacturing body the EEF has said.

The first is a European Commission proposal to require stress and work pressure to be considered as part of risk assessments for back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. The second is a proposal to tighten up legislation on ionising radiations.

The EEF poll found that three-quarters of firms disagreed with the commission’s back-pain proposals. And of the quarter within the poll that worked with ionising radiations, 95% believed that the current law is appropriate and should be neither tightened nor relaxed.

Rather than more legislation, the firms polled said that they simply wanted more case study guidance as to the best means of improving control of key risks.

The survey also said that the preferred option of most participants was a tougher voluntary accreditation system for health and safety consultants, something that is in the pipeline, rather than statutory licensing of health and safety advisers and consultants.

EEF head of health and safety Steve Pointer said: “The legislative framework in the UK is mature and there is little belief amongst those managing health and safety that further legislation would raise standards. However, whilst there is pressure in the UK to reduce legislation and remove unnecessary bureaucracy, the European Commission is moving in the opposite direction, continuing to propose new legal requirements.

“The European Commission’s next health and safety strategy needs to focus on improving consistency of application of existing requirements, not on producing further legislation.”

In response to the survey, the EEF has launched a new round of case study guidance on musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain and repetitive strain injuries. It is free to members and can be downloaded here.

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