With David Cameron promising a referendum by the end of 2017, employees and employers should be asking themselves what a ‘Brexit’— Britain exiting the EU — would mean for the safety of British business. The EU states that ‘health and safety at work is one of the areas where the EU has had the biggest impact,’* and the UK are currently subject to said impact. British business therefore need to be asking themselves whether they would be safer and more profitable with or without EU regulations. In other words, is the impact of the EU’s health and safety regulations good or bad? And are the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) regulations enough on their own?
HSE safety vs. EU safety
The issue of the EU interfering with the UK’s laws is one of the main reasons that those who are against the EU say they want to UK to leave. And so, for those in favour of a Brexit, the current HSE regulations are enough to keep the British workforce safe. There is evidence to support the fact that HSE is doing well. The HSE has cut spending by 40% from 2011 to 2015** and there has been little change in the rate of work related deaths as a result. Those opposed to the EU might argue that, if HSE can cut its spending and still maintain safety standards, then they are a much more efficient safety body than the EU. However, critics warn of a ‘timebomb’ from HSE funding cuts which would suggest that the UK needs all the help it can get from the EU.
Private safety organisations and racking inspection training
In rebuttal to those claims, Eurosceptics may argue that, though public spending on safety has been reduced, private enterprises have stepped in to help fill this gap. The problem with this claim is that you could argue many private safety organisations also benefit from being part of the EU.
SEMA, a British safety organisation responsible for training racking inspectors, are the British representative of the European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM). They are also a member of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) who are the official EU organisation responsible for creating and maintaining European standards. Supporters of the European Union would argue that, outside of the EU, SEMA will have a lot less power.
What can I do?
Whatever your view of the EU, the best way to insulate your own business against the future is to take safety into your own hands. HSE recommends that everybody working in a warehouse should be ‘technically competent.’ The best way to ensure this is through training. Whether it’s forklift training, racking inspection training, warehouse maintenance training, or any other kind of safety training, your staff can never know too much about safety.
Until David Cameron has finished creating his ‘shopping list’ of demands, no one can really say what Brexit would mean for the safety of British business. Without knowing if the UK will be in the EU or outside of it by 2018, and whether this will be good or bad, the best thing businesses can do to stay safe is to rely on well-trained, responsible, and intelligent staff.
About the author Justin O’Sullivan is a safety and business writer with years of experience. As the founder of SEMA Racking Inspections, he is a SEMA approved racking inspector who provides the best racking inspection training course in South East England.
** Health and Safety Executive Annual Report and Accounts 2014/15