EU health and safety rules imposed ‘unnecessary costs’ on UK businesses

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The UK has been driving health and safety standards across the world for decades. Even prior to the Health and Safety Act 1974, the UK was at the forefront of improving health and safety policies, so much so that many other countries followed its lead and based their own legislation on British standards. Since the Nineties, though, health and safety regulation in the UK has been firmly driven by the EU.

41 out of the 65 British health and safety regulations introduced between 1997 and 2009 originated in Brussels, a report suggested.

Now that Britain has left the bloc, in most cases, health and safety legislation will remain exactly the same.

However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it intends to make minor changes to health and safety law, for example by simply removing EU references in regulations but retaining all current legal requirements.

As Britain navigates its future outside of European regulations, a newly-resurfaced Government study claimed EU health and safety laws cost UK businesses a fortune without having “obvious benefits”.

In 2011, Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, of King’s College London, an expert on risk communication and management, was commissioned by Chris Grayling, then the Employment Minister, to look for ways that regulations on workplace safety could be refined to reduce the burden on employers.

The Daily Telegraph published Mr Löfstedt’s review, which warned that the minister’s scope for changing health and safety regulation was “severely” limited by the requirement to implement EU laws.

In a column for the Daily Telegraph, the professor wrote in 2011: “One recent study by the think tank Open Europe showed that 41 of the 65 new health and safety regulations introduced between 1997 and 2009 originated in the EU.

“And that the EU directives accounted for 94 percent of the cost of UK health and safety regulation introduced between 1998 and 2009.

“I am not about to argue that all these EU regulations are not needed or superfluous…

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“But there are a small number of EU regulations in the health and safety sector that create unnecessary costs on business without obvious benefits.

“One example of such a regulation is the ‘Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010 (AOR)’.

“Even the UK Health and Safety Executive noted that this regulation has no health and safety benefits for Great Britain.”

The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations came into force on April 27, 2010, and aimed to protect workers from the risks to health from hazardous sources of artificial optical radiation (AOR).

The professor noted that, in order to improve the quality of EU based directives and regulations within the health and safety sector and elsewhere, “future EU based regulations and directives need to be underpinned by the best available science and evidence”.

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He added: “All EU regulatory policies should be based on risk assessments rather than hazardous classifications, to ensure that policies are based on the likelihood or probability of a substance/event causing harm rather than just basing regulations on the potential of substance/event to cause harm.”

Author and journalist Ross Clark recently wrote how free of “EU diktats”, Britain is now ready to boom again.

Writing for Express.co.uk, Mr Clark said: “We need not be sucked into attempts by the EU to harmonise business taxes, and neither will our industries be undermined by protectionist rules dressed up as health, safety or environmental legislation.

“Proper health and safety regulations are essential, of course, but over decades the EU has perfected the art of trying to protect its farmers and other industries by means of blatant attempts to exclude foreign competitors.”

Mr Clark made the example of how in the Nineties, Britain had the chance to become the world leader in genetic-modification (GM) techniques in agriculture.

However, the industry was “smothered by rules that made it all but impossible to conduct crop trials”.

He added: “As a result, other countries took the lead. The EU’s purist approach didn’t even keep GM food off EU consumers’ plates – we now import GM soya and other foods from around the world.”

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