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Brexit; it’s an all-encompassing word that doesn’t just represent Britain’s departure from the European Union, but potentially its directives, laws and policies that businesses rely on today.

 

A shake up of any of our health and safety directives could affect the smallest sole-trader, to the biggest conglomerates. If you’re currently based in the UK then changes are afoot, from working conditions and pay, right down to the boots you wear on your feet. This concern isn’t just something that health and safety managers are considering, business executives across the country are waiting with baited breath to see what steps are next for Prime Minister Theresa May and her new Government.

 

For those in the industry, they will be wondering if any new developments will come hot on the heels of the latest Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive (89/686/EEC), first issued by the European Council 20 years ago.  It’s a massive piece of legislation that relates to occupational safety across Europe, and was adopted in to UK law in 1992. Now known as the Principal Regulations, the current edition, the PPE Regulations 2002, covers devices, appliances and personal safety wear that are drawn up to fully cover user protection.

 

Having changed very little since implementation, a new PPE directive was recently announced to reflect varying new technologies that are now employed in the work place. So what’s involved?

 

For one, the scope of the regulation has been extended with the addition of PPE for private use for protection against moisture, water and heat. However, only minor amendments have been made to essential health and safety requirements. With three major requirements concerning protection against vibration, noise and non-ionizing radiation, the directive has been revised to make them much more practical to enforce.

 

What manufacturers need to know is that existing PPE certificates will expire when the regulation comes fully into force. Any manager with a procurement for PPE will therefore need to make themselves aware of the changes and ensure that their providers meet the new certification standards. This will effect the complete supply chain.

 

In time, the new PPE legislation will be reclassified as a PPE Regulation. This is a binding legislative act, which must be applied precisely across the EU by each member country. Once decided upon and announced by the European Commission the rules will come in to force, but whether they will be applicable to Britain remains to be seen.

 

The Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH), had its Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Richard Jones, release this statement after the June referendum:

 

“Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health and safety system, which includes laws from EU directives, because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews and is respected and imitated across the world. IOSH will continue to promote agreed international standards and to defend against any erosion of health and safety protections.”

 

The former chair of the UK Parliament’s EU scrutiny committee, Michael Connarty, has voiced the same view but noted that 90% of EU legislation in force in the UK would probably have been introduced even without our obligations as a member state.

 

So whether you’re concerned about a change in working conditions, or something as simple as a safety shoe requirement; you can take comfort in that whatever May agrees going forward, it will take at least two years to implement. 

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