Health and safety leaders urge government to reconsider Retained EU Law Bill


A group of health and safety leaders have urged the government to scrap the arbitrary deadlines of the Retained EU Law Bill to help the UK keep its position as a ‘beacon of health and safety’ and ensure thousands of lifesaving laws are not left up in the air.

The group – encompassing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the British Safety Council (BSC), the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM), the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) – said in a statement that while change can be a positive thing, the government needs to ensure there is enough time and a full consultative process to ensure the safety of lives and businesses.

Furthermore, the group stated that the Bill could provide an opportunity to strengthen health and safety laws, but must be a consultative process, with the group leaders calling to meet and discuss the bill with the government.

The Retained EU Law Bill spans thousands of legislative areas, including construction, the environment, food safety and standards, product safety including toys, rules on child seatbelts, and hazardous substance and chemical safety.

EU-derived health and safety regulations also support the Health and Safety at Work Act, including the ‘six pack’ regulations, covering 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 PPE.

The statement says: “Given Britain’s long-standing record as a global leader in health and safety, we understand the need for continuous improvement and how regularly reviewing legislation can build more effective frameworks. However, we are concerned that the timeframe set forth for implementing the Retained EU Law Bill could lead to increased harm. While we agree the revision and improvement of UK health and safety laws would be positive, we are conscious that better regulation is not de-regulation.

“To ensure the safety and health outcomes of Britain’s workforce and therefore the resilience of its businesses, regulations must be reviewed sensibly, with due scrutiny and in consultation with both the occupational safety and health profession and business leaders. Rushing to implement the Bill as it stands, without clarity on which laws the Bill covers, and with the sunset clauses it contains, will undermine our health and safety standards and protections.

“Ultimately, we need more time and a more transparent process. Time to take an evidence-based approach, to treat each law individually, and to look at the overarching reason the law was originally passed. Every law has a considered aim and intention. And it is this aim and intention that we must carefully consider against the needs and necessary protections of workers and their rights, and the needs of all people and business, today and in the future, to be safe, healthy and sustainable.

“Whether we’re looking at child safety, occupational health and safety, road safety or home safety, our approach remains the same. We want to ensure that the UK is protected by relevant, evidence-based laws – and to be assured that we have taken the time to treat each one of the thousands of pieces of legislation on its individual merit.

“We therefore call upon the government to meet with us to discuss the impending Bill so that we can work together to offer constructive opinion. Put simply, we would like a thorough and inclusive consultation and engagement process, so that we do not risk a race to the bottom and strip away our people’s rights to a life free from serious accidental injury and ill health.”

>>Read more on health and safety in construction here.

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