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With a possible change in our relationship with Europe in the offing, would leaving the bloc make the UK safety and health landscape look any different and would we remain as influential among the remaining members?
Our robust Health and Safety at Work Act has had a profound impact on EU law. The act's "so far as reasonably practicable" qualifying phrase was included in the 1989 Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work (not without dissent), which became a strong foundation of EU safety and health regulation.
A more recent test of reasonable practicability in the European courts confirmed its continuing strength. It seems likely that UK organisations would support the retention of this position on proportionality if the UK was outside the EU.
The UK health and safety system has been tested in recent years and been found generally fit for purpose. The 2011 LÃ¶fstedt review noted how the UK's regime was improving health and safety statistics, though it urged rationalisation and consolidation of regulations. The review suggested that around 90% of all EU laws in force in the UK would have been enacted even if we had never joined. It is unlikely the UK government would jeopardise our safety standards unless there was a proven alternative that met the well-established objectives.
There are those who depict the EU as a force for deregulation. The Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme, which is reviewing whether regulations can be removed or consolidated, confirmed that, in 2014, a total of 53 legislative proposals were withdrawn and since 2006, more than 6,100 acts had been replaced.
There is also a UK-led shift towards less prescription in the safety and health arena. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations sought to further the selfregulation agenda through a focus on health and safety management rather than structural changes. More recently there is further evidence of a move away from prescriptive regulation -- the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 are often cited as an example.
In a less prescriptive legal framework employers will seek clarification of what they need to do to comply. Increasingly, organisations and OSH professionals are openly sharing good practice to provide some practical clarity for implementation by others. An effective deregulatory agenda requires evidence-based examples and collaboration across all stakeholder groups to achieve proportionate management of safety and health issues.
A vote to exit would be followed by negotiations expected to last two years. The predominant view is that, even if the UK decides to leave the EU, it would wish to retain a relationship to the union similar to that of Norway or Switzerland. Our well-respected framework would be likely to continue to influence the EU landscape. However, to ensure this position, UK health and safety networks (social partners) would need to work during the transition to maintain European partnerships to continue to champion UK legislation as the international framework for the future.
Although the refugee numbers are huge – two million Syrians are now in Turkey and much smaller Lebanon and Jordan are hosting even more between them – those who manage to get out of the country are in the minority. Most who have fled the fighting are not refugees but internally displaced, more than a quarter of the population, about six and a half million people.
Other months may be less busy, but the spurs that propel such topics into the public realm guarantee a continued supply.One of these is the interface between technological innovation and the vagaries of human nature; people acquire new devices and find improbable ways to use them. Hence the calls for tighter restrictions on domestic use of drones and, more curious still, laser pointers. (I can’t have been the only one whose belief in the goodness of humanity suffered a knock at the news there were 1,440 reports by pilots in 2014 of people shining lasers into plane cockpits.)
Businesses aren’t moral entities. They may be staffed by people who do the right thing more often than not, but that’s because they reflect the make-up of the general population.Companies exist to turn a profit and their executive directors in particular are appointed with the primary duty to generate shareholder value.
But the consultation and briefing events the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) hosted in January and February suggest the debate has moved on at last. Invited audiences around the UK heard about the new strategy, Helping Great Britain work well, and those at the London meeting, opened by Justin Tomlinson, the minister responsible for safety and health, could be forgiven for wondering where all the political animus against regulation had gone.
The bill was laid before parliament last July and one of its proposals relates to public sector facility time – the time-off given to an individual by their employer to carry out their role as a trade union rep. Under the bill ministers would gain a new power to set a limit how much time union reps are allowed by public sector employers. The power to restrict facility time was described as “wrong, potentially unlawful and dangerous” by Hugh Robertson, the TUC’s senior policy officer for health and safety on the Stronger Unions blog before the 16 March debate.
As we reported last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued William Fry Fabrications (WFF) with an improvement notice in February 2011 after inspector James Caren found it had not thoroughly examined and inspected its lifting equipment as required by the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER). WFF had two cranes on site: an Elephant chain hoist with a 500 kg capacity used inside the warehouse; and a larger outdoor Cobal Goliath travelling crane which had a safe working load of 4 tonnes.