Like it or not, Brexit is coming, and many businesses have been planning for a ‘no deal Brexit’. This involves making contingency plans and working out how to tackle possible interruptions. H&S advisers will no doubt have been asked to contribute.
We know from bitter experience that it is often when routines are disrupted that things can go wrong. People and assets can be damaged because of unforeseen risks not being managed. Safety always needs to be kept in mind when planning for emergencies and change.
Hopefully, health and safety professionals are on the case in their organisations. But has the wider H&S Community begun to undertake a wider Brexit H&S risk assessment?
If you are a ‘just in time’ manufacturer, you may be investing in more warehousing to build up stocks of components. What about the training issues, manual handling, workplace transport safety and so on? What about the knock-on effect on working patterns? What about things like safety information provision? What about new maritime transport operations being set up with inexperienced operators and crews? What about the future CE marking of goods and equipment, REACH or all the other pan-European systems we now have linked to safety?
This is not ‘project fear’, but just careful checking to see that there are no hidden safety pathogens which can arise from Brexit, but will not appear until later.
It looks, in the short-term at least as if H&S law will remain unchanged. But this may not last, as we move away to do trade deals with countries with lower standards. There is a strong deregulatory narrative underpinning the case advanced by leavers for economic development post Brexit. Will we once again have to go through all the work needed to prove that health and safety regulation is not a ‘burden on business’, but a vital support framework for business efficiency and success? Accidents and work related ill-health are bad news for everyone, Brexit or no Brexit.
And what level or technical cooperation with our current EU partners can we expect post Brexit? Are UK HSE officials already being prevented from attending meetings in the EU with their counterparts? What will happen to our input to the EU Health and Safety Agency in Bilbao?
If the history of the last three years tells us anything it is that we cannot afford to just hope for the best and leave things to chance. We all need to be fully prepare. In these uncertain times that applies as much to managing good health and safety outcomes, as it does to achieving any other business objective.
What do readers think?