As we get to the end of 2016, what is likely to occur in 2017 as things become clearer
2017 will continue to bring questions around Brexit and what it means for occupational health and safety. Most UK health and safety laws derived from EU directives have been in place for many years and are embedded in companies’ policies, management systems and working practices. The most pragmatic approach the UK can adopt is to “grandfather” all legislation derived from EU directives when we exit, and then review it piecemeal.
In due course, there will be opportunities to repeal certain areas of regulation without reducing levels of employee protection. Candidates include regulations derived from the Artificial Optical Radiation and Electromagnetic Fields Directives; and eyesight testing for employees using display screen equipment.
In the area of product safety, the export of goods from the UK is subject to rules around product directives and product standards, many of which will have been established jointly by the EU and by the national standard-setting bodies and CEN and CENELEC. Post Brexit, companies that wish to continue trading in the EU (using CE marking) will need to continue to meet EU product safety directives and the product standards which are mutually recognised across Europe.
At this time last year, I speculated about whether manufacturers would become more risk averse as a consequence of the revised Sentencing Council guideline for health and safety offences. There is no doubt that the average level of fines has increased and that company directors have become more aware of the potential for higher fines.
The question of the unforeseen risks posed by new technologies is likely to be an ongoing theme in 2017 as driverless cars take to the roads and artificial intelligence stops being a sci-fi term.
Research is giving us a more accurate picture on nanotechnology. An IOSH-backed study into nanomaterials in the construction sector is due in early 2017.
+ MARTIN TEMPLE, CHAIR OF HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE
There is a lot of exciting work to do in 2017 as we encourage more of Britain’s workforce to sign up to the long term benefits offered by the Helping Great Britain Work Well strategy commitment to deliver safer and healthier workplaces.
There is a continuing role to play for everyone who has a stake in improving health and safety in the workplace, especially people who undertake or influence workplace activities and attitudes.
The importance of tackling ill heath in the workplace cannot be overstated and will form a cornerstone of the work that both HSE and industry focus on in the coming years, not just in 2017. A lot of good work has already been done on health, but it needs to have the same priority as safety. For example, in the construction industry, the number of workers suffering work-related ill health each year is of a similar order to the number of workers in construction injured in workplace accidents. With the launch of a new Health and Work strategy, HSE will demonstrate the government’s commitment to tackling ill-health in the workplace. The preventative work of the HSE and industry bodies will be a key component of this overall approach.