Implications of Brexit for health and safety

Written on 13 Aug 2018

Is any new EU legislation expected to come into force and effect before the end of the transition period?

EU Council Directive 2017/164 concerning the protection of workers from risks related to chemical agents at work is due to be implemented on 21 August 2018 (see above).

The European Commission still intends to amend the Workplace Directive (89/654/EC) to seek a more dynamic definition of the ‘workplace’ to reflect changes in modern working. However, no legislation has been proposed as yet.

Is a new regulator needed, or do additional powers to be given to an existing regulator?

Health and safety in the UK is regulated by UK regulatory authorities, including the HSE and local authorities. The legislation and regulations are also UK regulations (albeit some of them implement EU directives). A new regulator will therefore not be needed.

The HSE has started to introduce technical regulations under the new European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to ensure retained EU law still functions effectively on exit.

The HSE will continue to act as the ‘competent authority’ so far as the enforcement of the EU Regulation on the  Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is concerned. However, it remains to be seen whether the UK will be granted associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency after exit.

There is important liaison and know-how sharing with European organisations, as well as global organisations such as the International Labor Organisation, and it is hoped that this will continue in some form post-Brexit.

Is there an existing “equivalence” or “recognition” regime for recognising Third Country regulatory regimes?

No. Health and safety regulatory regimes are operated at a national level, so there is no mechanism for recognising Third Country regimes. Any business operating in the UK needs to comply with UK legislation and regulations, irrespective of where the business is located.

Does current UK government policy mean that (subject to the terms of a future trade agreement between the UK and the EU) material changes to regulation or enforcement are likely post-Brexit?

There is no indication at present that there will be any divergence between the UK health and safety regulatory regime and EU regulation post Brexit. However, there continues to be pressure by government to cut ‘red tape’ and therefore it could be that complex health and safety legislation that has derived from the EU may be looked at more closely in terms of its effectiveness.

What should businesses be doing now to prepare for Brexit?

We do not expect Brexit to have any significant impact on the health and safety regulatory regime in the UK so there is no need to businesses to adopt any new practices as such.