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Business as usual

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has prompted the question of whether current EU regulations could be revoked immediately. This is not the case. Until the UK government invokes Article 50 of The Lisbon Treaty, nothing changes. Only when a qualified majority of the European Council gives final consent to the terms of withdrawal, and permission by the European Parliament is granted, can Article 50 be triggered.

EU directives have had a significant influence on UK legislation – particularly health and safety, environmental and workers’ rights, which have been transposed into the successful risk-based UK law in place today.

Withdrawal from the EU will take a lot of planning and negotiation to ensure the right deal is reached. It will require the expertise of trade and legal professionals, including those with a wide knowledge of risk management. From the time Article 50 is triggered, it could take up to two years to negotiate the UK exit (the maximum time allowed). But this may not be long enough – many commentators and internationally recognised institutions have estimated it could take ten years. “As there is no time limit to invoke Article 50 to withdraw from the EU now that the decision to leave has been made, the government does not need to rush,” says IIRSM Technical Director Peter Hall FIIRSM.

There are many facets to risk management and our profession. There will be lots of different views on what legislation may need to be reviewed, changed or revoked, but that is for future discussion. According to Ian Dalling SFIIRSM, the key message should be to carry on as usual. “Any proposed changes to the HSE and legislation will take place to the current timescales and consultation processes,” he notes. IIRSM echoes Ian’s comments; the legal position is clear – businesses operating in the UK must continue to comply with EU and UK law.

Dr Gayle Brewer SIIRSM, from the University of Central Lancashire, thinks it would be helpful to highlight the difference between compliance and best practice. “There can be a tendency for people, in all sectors, to focus on the issues which must be addressed,” she says. “That is not necessarily the best approach for risk and safety management.”

Throughout the UK’s membership of the EU, the Health and Safety at Work Act has been in place and effective and we should continue to apply our successful risk-based management systems. Many UK organisations will want to continue to work and trade within the EU and it will be in their interest to continue maintaining compliance. The UK has been a leader in influencing other EU nations and regulators in developing strong foundations for future health, safety and environmental laws.

“Brexit should be considered as just another risk category,” offers Deputy President Andy Hawkes. “Businesses should have a risk management process in place to deal with the risk, whatever that risk may be.”

The Institute will continue to promote and support effective management of risk and the health, safety and environmental standards that provide protection and welfare standards of those they apply to.

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