Brexit’s Immediate Effect on Health and Safety
Following the formalisation of a trade deal and the end of the Brexit Transition period, what is the immediate effect of Brexit on UK health and safety legislation? And how will your business, and your processes be affected?
The UK has been driving health and safety standards across the world for decades. Even prior to the Health and Safety Act 1974, the UK has been at the forefront of improving health and safety policies, so much so that many other countries follow our lead and base their own legislation on British standards.
Now that the UK has left the European Union, as an employer your responsibilities to protect the health and safety of people affected by your work activities remain. However, businesses will need to brush up on the changing requirements placed upon them. If you intend to export or import across borders, you’ll not only need to know UK requirements, but EU ones as well.
Specific industries and manufacturers have different rules. In particular, if you work with chemicals, civil explosives and work equipment and machinery on the GB and Northern Ireland Markets you may need to make immediate changes.
The immediate changes affect the:
- Chemicals industry and the safe management of chemicals
- Placing of civil explosives on the market
- Manufacture and supply of new work equipment
Brexit’s Impact on the Chemicals Industry
The UK has left the EU, but remains strongly committed to the effective and safe management of chemicals. Regulations have changed in respect of:
- Biocides – Authorisation of biocidal substances and products
- CLP – Classification, labelling and packaging of substances and chemicals
- PIC – Prior informed consent
- PPP – Pesticides or Plant Protection Products
- REACH – Registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals
REACH After Brexit
The 1 January 2021 saw the EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) replaced by a UK version of the legislation known as UK REACH.
Businesses must ensure that they meet the relevant duties under both UK and EU REACH if they supply or purchase substances, mixtures or articles to or from:
- The European Union (EU)
- The European Economic Area (EEA)
- Northern Ireland (NI)
- Great Britain (GB) (England, Scotland and Wales)
There may be actions you need to take to maintain or gain access to these markets.
The role you previously undertook within EU REACH may have changed significantly under UK REACH so it’s important to review your role(s).
The classification of chemicals placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) are to be regulated under the GB Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation, known as GB CLP.
The Health and Safety Executive will act as the GB CLP Agency and carries out certain CLP functions formerly undertaken by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
Supply of Chemicals to the GB Market
If your business is based in Great Britain and is supplied by businesses based within the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) and you place those products on the GB market, you are defined as an importer of chemicals and must comply with the GB CLP Regulation. If this is the case, you have a legal duty to understand your obligations under the GB CLP Regulation.
Northern Ireland-Based Business Supplying the GB Market
Northern Ireland-based suppliers placing chemicals (substances and mixtures) on the GB market must demonstrate that their products are qualifying Northern Ireland goods (QNIGs). There is separate guidance for Northern Ireland-based businesses directly supplying chemicals to the GB market.
Supply Chemicals to Northern Ireland
The classification of chemicals placed on the market in Northern Ireland are regulated by European regulations known as EU CLP. HSE Northern Ireland (HSENI) has separate guidance on EU CLP.
The Manufacture and Supply of New Work Equipment
All new work equipment must by design, construction and supply comply with one or more legal requirements when first placed on the market or put into service, to ensure that they can be used safely and without harm.
Prior to January 2021 the CE or Conformitè Europëenne Mark was used to demonstrate good complied with relevant standards both across the EU and the UK – Now the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) Mark is required for good placed on the market within the United Kingdom
The UK Government Website describes the main provisions of the legislation concerned with the design, manufacture and supply of new products, including:
- Designing and building for safety
- Assessing product conformity
- Demonstrating product compliance
- Providing users with relevant information
You can also find a summary of the UK, law implementing these provisions, and where for export to the European single market, EU law.
The immediate changes to UK legislation are designed to ensure a continuation of standards after Brexit. In general this has been achieved by replacing EU directives with references to other relevant UK legislation. Where that is not possible, they provide a clear definition within the amended regulation.
However, all the changes are purely there to ensure the current way of doing things is applicable within the UK’s legal framework now that it sits outside of the European Union. The amendments will not change the requirements and expectations placed on business owners and managers.
In summary, your duties to protect the health, safety and welfare of people will not change with Brexit. Following Brexit, you should continue to manage your business and employees in a proportionate way to reduce risk and to protect people and the environment.