Health and safety legislation is in a constant state of flux, evolving and adapting to new workplace realities as they emerge. Changes are also being made to prepare the UK for its imminent exit from the European Union. So what’s on the horizon for 2019?
Health and Safety (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
The government began preparing the UK’s regulatory regimes for the shock of Brexit in 2017, with the launch of the Helping Great Britain Work Well campaign (more on this below). However, new regulations have since been introduced.
The Health and Safety (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 were drawn up to ensure that the UK’s Health and Safety Legislation is fit for purpose should the nation exit the EU. In the government’s own language, these regulations
“address deficiencies in health and safety legislation arising from the exit of the UK from the EU.”
This has been achieved by making minor amendments to existing legislation to remove EU references. These pieces of legislation include:
- Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996
- Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
- Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010
- Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2014
- Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive) (Safety Case, etc) Regulations 2015
- Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015
- Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017
These changes are expected to come into force on the date of the UK’s exit from the EU. At the time of writing, this is scheduled for the 29th March 2019. However, the political situation is volatile and this date may change if the EU allows for an extension of Article 50.
While there may be some slight changes to the regulation that govern health and safety in these areas to remove EU references, the legal requirements and the protection these provide will be the same as they are now.
A separate but complementary set of regulations have been drawn up for Northern Ireland. They are known as the Health and Safety (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018.
About Helping Great Britain Work Well
This initiative was drawn up in 2017, and its policies are continuing to take effect. It represents a more ‘joined up thinking’ approach to the whole concept of Health and Safety.
Helping Great Britain Work Well is not a red-tape buster, but instead encourages businesses (and SMEs in particular) to look at preventative, rather than reactionary, responses. That applies to both accidents at work and ill health too, encouraging businesses to be much more aware of potential dangers and their long-term effects, rather than focusing simply on short-term or immediate dangers.
Helping Great Britain Work Well is a key working practice framework for all UK businesses, so it’s important to ensure you are familiar with the concepts, which are, in brief:
- Acting together: Ensuring businesses take more responsibility for Health and Safety with more specific regulations to protect both workers and visitors
- Tackling ill health: Identifying and dealing with the causes of work-related ill health (including mental health issues such as stress)
- Managing risk: Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow rather than enforcing greater degrees of legislation on them
- Supporting small employers: Giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do to comply with the law and current best practices
- Keeping pace with change: Anticipating and tackling new Health and Safety challenges, especially in evolving industries
- Sharing best practice methods: To create a more cohesive Health and Safety strategy that crosses into all workplaces, regardless of sector.
Enforcement vs Responsibility
While HSE is still be on hand to enforce all current safety legislation, Helping Great Britain Work Well places the onus on personal responsibility. That means HSE continues to direct more effort into working with businesses to help them comply with standard operating legislation. Expect regular campaigns throughout the year to educate and inform businesses on their responsibilities.
The Impact of Brexit
Employers shouldn’t expect a wholesale change in Health and Safety legislation, even if Brexit takes place on the 29th of March. Currently, the government’s default position is to ensure continuity by bringing post-Brexit Britain’s standards into line with the EU’s. Though this approach may alter in the future, it’s unlikely that the government will prioritise developing new health and safety standards in the coming months.
Enforcement vs Responsibility
While HSE will still be on hand to enforce all current safety legislation, in 2019 the onus will be on personal responsibility. That means HSE will be directing more effort into working with businesses to help them comply with standard operating legislation. Expect regular campaigns throughout the year to educate and inform businesses on their responsibilities.
An Older Workforce
As the workforce increases in age, employers may have to consider ways to ensure that working environments are more accessible, safer, and more comfortable for older workers. For example, revisions in legislation concerning ergonomic assessments may take place later in the year.
The Recognition of Mental Health Issues in the Workplace
While there has been legislation in place covering the effects of stress in the workplace for some years, it hasn’t perhaps been as rigorously enforced as it should have been. With a shifting climate that now puts greater emphasis on mental health and well-being, HSE will be looking closely at how working environments can trigger or even exacerbate existing mental health issues such as stress, and what businesses can do to prevent this.
Focus on Construction
There will be a continued emphasis on ensuring a safer working environment in the construction industry (which still suffers from a high accident rate), as well as new legislation looking at more technologically advanced industries such as aerospace, the nuclear industry, and high-tech research and development working environments.
Overall, 2019 will be focusing more on proactive prevention rather than responsive reactions for both physical and mental health in the workplace.
Stay up to date with all the relevant changes to HSE legislation by signing up for regular HSE bulletins, reading relevant Whitepapers on specific topics, or reading news updates. For advice on all aspects of Health and Safety, please contact our dedicated Wirehouse team on 0333 3215005 or email us.