On 15 October United Kingdom manufacturers’ organisation EEF published a wide-ranging report on the H&S landscape in the UK in conjunction with health & safety (H&S) retailer Arco. Section 6 of the report focused on the implications of Brexit on the UK’s H&S regulatory regime and product safety standards; included was a survey of 114 UK companies, 97% of which favored retaining the UK’s current EU regime and standards, at least in part.
The report stated since the H&S standards and regulatory systems of the UK and EU are “intrinsically interwoven”, it would be unwise for the UK to completely separate its regulatory regime and safety standards from those of the EU. “There is a clear message from manufacturers that there should be no rapid change post Brexit to the UK’s health & safety regulatory regime,” said Terry Woolmer, Head of Health & Safety policy at EEF. “The Government’s current approach of grandfathering existing EU worker protection and product safety standards into UK law for the foreseeable future is the right one. This is essential to avoid costly disruption, the emergence of any technical barriers and the development of unnecessary multiple standards which might damage the prospects of some companies being able to operate seamlessly when the UK leaves the EU.”
The survey of 114 UK companies, conducted in spring 2018, found that a negligible 3% of companies want to immediately revert to the pre-EU regulatory regime as set by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; the remaining 97% prefer the to keep the current EU regime and standards post-Brexit. However, 55% of the 144 companies favor a review of the necessity of the individual regulations within the current regime, more than the 42% which prefer no change to the current regime at all. Survey results regarding product safety standards were nearly identical.
The survey also divided the companies into size categories - large (251+ employees), medium (101 - 250), and small (1 - 100). While a slim majority of small companies were found to prefer no change to the current H&S regulatory regime, the majorities of medium and large were found to favor a review of the regime. The difference between smaller and larger companies likely has to do with the resources they have available to deal with change - small companies tend to prefer avoiding disruption, while larger companies may see a review of the current H&S regulatory regime as an opportunity to simplify the system and lower the cost of compliance.