How has Brexit affected health & safety?

Photo of a person assessing the impact Brexit has had on health & safety

Brexit triggered a number of changes that pose new challenges for British businesses, with those that deal in the distribution or manufacture of chemicals and work equipment now required to comply with new UK health and safety requirements.

What legal changes to health and safety have occurred as a result of Brexit? In the UK, the backbone of legal protection for employees is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which has been altered and supplemented by numerous EU regulations and directives since it became law. These changes remained part of UK domestic law after Brexit took effect from 1 January 2021, and new UK regulations have been introduced to ensure that these measures can work effectively in the UK. The extent to which EU and UK health and safety law will diverge in the coming months is likely to be minimal.

However, regulations have changed in relation to specific industries in England, Wales and Scotland, with separate rules being introduced for businesses in Northern Ireland. Some of these changes relate to the manufacture and supply of new products including work equipment and machinery, and the manufacture and supply of chemicals.

New product safety requirements

To ensure that levels of product safety are maintained, the UK has introduced two new standards: the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark and UK Northern Ireland (UKNI) mark for Northern Ireland. Products intended for the UK market must comply with the requirements of all applicable UK legislation, which include UKCA marking instead of CE marking. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has stated that products in conformity with relevant European product supply legislation and correctly bearing the CE marking will (until 31 December 2021) be treated as satisfying the requirements of the relevant UK legislation and need not bear UK marking.

It's important for all companies to understand their role and what their duties are with respect to product safety, including work equipment and machinery. The HSE offers information on the duties required of work equipment users, purchasers, installers, suppliers/importers/exporters, designer/manufacturers and exhibitors, and Mentor can offer detailed guidance on the legal requirements for your business.

Requirements for businesses in the chemical industry

Brexit has had an impact on the following areas relating to chemical industry regulation:

  • REACH: registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals
  • Biocides: authorisation of biocidal substances and product
  • CLP: classification, labelling and packaging of substances and chemicals
  • PIC: prior informed consent (export and import of hazardous chemicals
  • PPP: pesticides or plant protection products

As with product safety, it's important for companies to understand where they fit into the supply chain - if they are a manufacturer, importer, exporter or downstream user - as this status may have changed as a result of Brexit. For example, a company that bought its chemicals from outside Great Britain but within the EU (under EU REACH registration) and was therefore classified as a 'downstream user' prior to Brexit would now be classed as an 'importer' (under UK REACH).

For full information on how regulation within the chemicals industry has changed, visit the HSE website.

How could Mentor help you

If you're an existing Mentor customer, visit MentorDigital, where we host a range of tools, templates and guidance to help you plan for the longer-term changes to ways of working, including our dedicated coronavirus hub.

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