Government plans to scrap swathes of European Union-derived health and safety regulations risk increasing accidents, work-related injuries and work-related ill health, environmental health practitioners have warned.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has expressed serious concern about the impact of the government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill on health and safety protections.
The Bill will mean a raft of EU-derived health and safety regulations being put at risk of ‘sunsetting’ or disappearing from the statute book overnight.
In its response to a call for evidence from a House of Commons Public Bill Committee consultation, CIEH warned that the removal of these regulations would risk increasing accidents, work-related injuries and illness.
Ross Matthewman, CIEH head of policy and campaigns, 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.
“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,” Matthewman added.
Health and safety
EU-derived health and safety regulations support the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, for example.
They include the so-called ‘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 a number of specific areas of risk, such as asbestos, construction, work at height, gas safety and the control of hazardous substances, the institute said.
“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,” Matthewman said.
“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,” he added.
The Bill seeks to end the special legal status of all retained EU law by 31 December 2023, the ‘sunset’ date, although there will probably be a review and extension process until 2026.