With Brexit on the horizon and slowly coming into view, yesterday Parliament published its “Great Repeal Bill”, which will see the transfer of every single piece of EU legislation to the British statute book.
The idea is that, once transferred, these can be sifted through and decisions made around which should be amended, repealed or improved. This mass migration of information seeks to avoid the predicted legal ‘black hole’ when Brexit happens...however within this superabundance of legislation sits health and safety, workers’ rights and the environment.
We hear much about “bendy bananas” and other bananas rules and regulations that bureaucrats in Brussels are said to like to impose. A public perception persists of suited politicians, hundreds of miles away, arbitrarily making up rules about things like the steps brickies must take in order not to trap their fingers, or the number of duplicate forms that must be filled in after a carpenter receives a splinter.
On Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph commendably launched a “cut the red tape” campaign to ensure any unnecessary or overly zealous rules and regulations are removed to help individuals and businesses thrive. The focus of the piece, a cartoon, showed a couple of characters standing atop a pile of health and safety paperwork, ready to set it alight with a can of petrol.
Though the irony of the picture raised a smile, the text underneath claimed that the pile of paperwork was “EU Health and Safety law”.
These perceptions are simply not true – in fact, the opposite is the case.
While some berate the EU for telling us what to do in the world of health and safety, what they do not realise is that the rules they refer to were commonly created in UK law in the first place.
This is borne out by the Telegraph campaign; despite being the focus of the cartoon, nowhere in the article was health and safety mentioned.
The UK is a world leader in the areas of road and workplace safety, with enviably low casualty rates; a world-class performance that has been hard-won through decades of investment in adopting evidence-based, life saving legislation and regulation, backed up by appropriate enforcement action. In fact, we are so good at protecting our road users and workers that our cousins in the EU consistently borrow the legislation that we create here, and export it across the continent.
Despite this, hospitals throughout Europe are struggling to cope with unprecedented levels of A&E attendances, associated with home and leisure accidents. In the UK, the NHS is close to breaking point and we urgently need to arrest the tide by applying our road and workplace safety expertise to the areas of home and leisure safety.
So, as the petrol is being poured on a swathe of regulation while we move towards Brexit, the UK will only continue to be the safest place in the world to live if we protect our world-leading approach to health and safety.
Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational safety and health policy adviser
Posted: 3/31/2017 1:41:27 PM