Brexit and Health and Safety Law – Will Anything Change?


The vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June has sent shockwaves through Britain and the rest of the world, and it seems that some sort of Brexit is going to happen. Quite what that will look like is anyone's guess at the moment, but it is certain to mean that areas of industry that are closely tied to Europe will feel the effects.

But what will those effects be?

For many, the thought that an "overly PC" attitude can be brought back into our control, and the more crazy rules thrown out would be seen as a good thing, if only it were that simple.

Firstly, many people hark on about health and safety interfering with our lives because they read tabloids that push such a negative view.

For example, the apparent rule that children should wear goggles when playing conkers. This made the news and was spread far and wide, and yet it never happened.

The school said "health and safety" when in fact, it was their own rules, it had nothing to do with actual law and the HSE distanced themselves from the story entirely.

Health and Safety is an important part of the law, and it's saved lives for decades, so is there a chance that it could all be thrown out in a few years time?

How things will change

Firstly, it has to be said that nobody knows how our exit from Europe will manifest itself.

It's still a subject of intense debate, with court cases flying around and other parts of the UK wanting their say on the deal.

However, a few things have been suggested.

For example, the "Great Repeal Bill" which will annul the 1972 European Communities Act. This act will stop European law having an effect in the UK, so what will happen?

Well, part of it is that it will absorb EU legislation into UK law, and although this means that we can then cherry-pick the bits we want to keep and throw out the stuff we do not like, it's going to take a long time for that to happen.

The amount of paperwork involved in the process will be huge, and it will involve many hours, days, weeks and months of intense debate to change those laws, as each one will have to be discussed by parliament.

For this reason, then, and even for some time after Brexit, we will have laws on health and safety in the workplace that will continue, for better or for worse.

Will it be better?

That's the big question. Will taking our laws entirely into our own hands mean health and safety regulation will become tighter? Will it become more lenient?

The fear is that leniency is a synonym for danger, and many in the HSE world would not welcome laws that have saved lives being watered down.

However, there are obviously going to be some laws that have a minimal effect on actual safety but are instead causing problems and cost for businesses. For these, at least, the removal of Europe's stringent framework may be a slight relief, but one thing is certain, the UK's effect on Europe will reduce drastically, and will probably be non existent.