The EU Referendum has passed and the country has made the decision that it no longer wishes to remain as a member state of the European Union (EU). During the campaign the electorate was constantly asking for facts so that they could make a considered decision. During the build up it appeared that there were no facts and if that was not obvious then it certainly is now, as we attempt to deal with the aftermath.
What we have seen since Friday the 24th is the political fallout, resignations, recriminations and leadership battles. But, what will it mean for the Occupational Safety and Health industry in the UK?
This market has been based on European Directives for over 25 years and those in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) market have shaped and resourced their businesses around these rules and requirements. The decision of the UK to leave the EU came just 2 months after the new PPE Regulation 2016/425 came “into force” and it becomes “applicable” in this country on the 21st of April 2018 well before any Brexit, regardless of when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked.
In order to support the Occupational Safety and Health market, the members of the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) will have to focus on being able to comply with the requirements of the new regulation, but of course the question remains as to what degree an independent UK will respect it. The BSIF has already engaged with UKTI / BIS, the AllParty Parliamentary Group and the HSE to establish the position. We have further proposed parliamentary questions which seek to clarify the situation.
The official word is that until the UK ceases to be a member of the EU, we will adopt EU legislation as normal. This is not an unexpected official position as to do otherwise would not be legal.
Perhaps the real issue is the resource that will be put behind it in the build up to the applicable date from UK institutions. We already know that some of these bodies, like UKAS, are stretched and if they cannot support the UK market in a timely manner then other countries of the EU could have their notified bodies scoped for the new regulation, ahead of those in this country, which will be a disadvantage and could create significant disruption.
We have long held the view that the users and commercial operators in the UK PPE market will wish to adhere to the Regulation as it has become the norm with product platforms, product performances and international supply chains built around it. The preparations necessary to comply with the new Regulation were always going to present challenges and the referendum result will not help.
Though not without its problems in certain areas the PPE market which is an international market, works and we believe that the UK will continue to recognise the legislation. We will work actively with parliament and government departments to support this outcome and ensure that wherever possible our members are not disadvantaged and that the safety of the UK workforce is not compromised.
Irrespective of the momentous political changes that will flow from the decision of the referendum, we will continue to remind the Government of the essential role that safety and health plays in good business practise and the undeniable fact that good safety and health is a force for good.
We will remain close to all discussions that affect our market and ensure that BSIF members are kept right up to date with any pertinent developments.