UK Health and safety regulations could face a drastic overhaul in 2024 if the Retained EU Law Bill (RELB) is passed in its current form.
What could change?
If the bill is passed all secondary health and safety law could be replaced. The RELB gives the government licence to amend and replace EU law.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 will remain in place however a number of occupational health and safety regulations could fall out of law overnight on 31 December 2023.
It is possible that the deadline for voting on the bill could be pushed back. Parliament have the option to push back the vote to 23 June 2026. IOSH have been pressuring ministers for this extension and favour a further delay until 2030 to allow for a proper consultation and review. This will allow them to ensure certain standards or protections stay in place. Either way an ultimate decision needs to be made by the end of 2023, or current regulations will fall away.
Which regulations could be affected?
Because the UK’s current health and safety requirements are drawn from the EU, many requirements you are familiar could disappear:
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (risk assessment and ‘Competent Person’ requirements)
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
- Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, amended 2022
To clarify, any regulations which demand specific obligations could fall away. This means Work at Height 2005 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 would no longer apply.
Will affected regulations be replaced?
If the bill is passed it doesn’t mean that businesses will no longer have health and safety responsibilities in these areas. Also, areas of health and safety regulation not derived from UK law will be unaffected.
A grey area may develop around enforcement for rule breaches. If the bill comes into play, many regulations would no longer be law under the Health and Safety at Work Act and instead be classified as guidance.
So, the HSE will need to decide how they will enforce rules when compliance methods have changed and businesses are uncertain about their obligations.
Many experts predict that the HSE will propose stability, taking into account that health safety principles will no longer be law, but remain as guidance. Where changes in work practices have developed, an opportunity is presented for businesses to update their approaches – for example around hybrid working.
The bill passed through the Lords Committee and was adapted with agreed amendments in early March 2023. The next step is for the bill to go to the Lords Report stage for further analysis, before a third and final Lords reading.
Proposed amendments include an extension of the ‘sunsetting’ deadline to 2028. It is likely that the bill could pass between the Houses of Lords and Commons until an agreement is made. It is likely we’ll know more about exactly how health and safety law is affected later spring 2023 or summer.
Health and safety documents
Until the bill is passed businesses will need to make the same risk mitigations as requested by law.
We can help your organisation design bespoke health and safety documents from risk assesments to accident and investigation permits and permit templates.