Brexit Myth Busting

There seem to have been a lot of iconic pictures of world leaders signing important documents floating around in the past few months.  I couldn’t help thinking the image of Theresa May signing the letter triggering Article 50 on Wednesday was just another in a long line, following Donald Trump signing a variety of Executive Orders which he can or cannot get through the US Senate.  One thing is for sure, there are some fairly seismic political changes afoot, and it’s only natural for people to think “How does this affect me?”

We’ve heard various interpretations of how Brexit is likely to impact on the health and safety landscape in the UK; ranging from the “Bonfire of Regulations” to “Steady as she goes”.  Undoubtedly, there will be a degree of uncertainty until things finally become apparent over the next two years (I suspect longer, but that’s another story!).  However, when looking at this, I think we need to give credit to the maturity of UK industry and how it operates as part of “business as usual” before we push the panic button and look for other careers.

Firstly, let’s take a common sense look at what some people are claiming.

Are we really saying that the UK Government is going to drive a coach and horses through a framework that has been established over at least 4 decades, and has brought significant benefits in terms of health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce?  I really cannot see any sensible Government even contemplating this.  Remember, health and safety law (and the duty to ensure the health and safety of workers and others) is enshrined in a general Duty of Care established in UK law.  Much of what has been established as accepted practice in exercising this duty of care has been adopted or refined as a result of the European Framework Directive (e.g. the “Six Pack” and CDM), but in practice these have been instruments used to interpret the Duty of Care that already existed.

Secondly, what about industry itself?

The Daily Mail and their ilk have a lot to answer for in their almost rabid approach to devaluing the approach to health and safety management in the UK.  The reality is, the vast majority of our organisations have a deep rooted moral commitment to ensuring their workers are adequately protected.  The fact that there is a legal framework in place to ensure this occurs is almost incidental.  It is actually part of “How we do business”.  To suggest otherwise is paying a huge disservice to UK businesses who invest considerable time and resource in making the lives of their workforce better.  The fact is, by and large, the business and moral arguments for effective health and safety management have long been accepted, almost irrespective of what the law says.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am acutely aware that there is still a long way to go – and the opportunities for improvement are manifest across all industries; however I believe legislation is often a blunt instrument that actually limits organisations’ potential to improve (i.e. if you only do what the law requires you are missing out on other opportunities to improve how your organisation performs).  This is where we should be focussing our efforts.

So, we have an interesting couple of years ahead and – no doubt – there will be many twists and turns.  My advice would be to:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Apply a dose of common sense
  • Have the courage of your convictions
  • Trust in the integrity and competence of UK businesses
  • Work with them to keep doing what you’re doing

My gut feeling?  We’ll be sat there in two years’ time wondering what the fuss was all about.

Blog Courtesy of Mark Burslem of Callidus Health & Safety Ltd

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *