LRD Booklets July 2018

Health and safety law 2018

Introduction

Introduction


[pages 8-10]

This latest edition of the Labour Research Department’s annual guide to health and safety law, Health and Safety Law 2018, is being published less than a year before the UK is expected to leave the European Union (EU) (Brexit). 


The terms under which the UK will leave the EU are still far from clear, with negotiations ongoing, but a so-called hard Brexit could have severe consequences for health and safety law. As the TUC explains: “Much of the health and safety law in the UK is now underpinned by the EU. Almost two-thirds (63%) of new British health and safety regulations introduced between 1997-2009 originated in Europe (41 out of 65 laws).” 


Prime minister Theresa May promised that workers’ rights will be “protected and enhanced” after Brexit. But TUC general secretary Frances O’ Grady says “unions are sceptical — with good reason”. 


“We know that there are many Conservatives who would like nothing better than a bonfire of working rights, environmental regulations and safety standards,” she said. “The cliff-edge Brexiteers have key rights in their sights — including protections for agency workers, action against discrimination, and health and safety.”


The TUC is particularly concerned that a number of Tory ministers want to scrap the Working Time Directive (which resulted in the Working Time Regulations). 


O’Grady urged the Prime Minister to “stand up to the hardliners” in her party and make workers’ rights part of the final agreement” so that UK rights “keep pace” with those across Europe. 


The booklet also comes shortly after the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people in the 24-storey residential tower in the early hours of 14 June 2017. This is likely to lead to changes in building control and fire safety legislation. The public inquiry into the disaster began taking evidence in June 2017, and the Metropolitan Police are leading a criminal investigation which could lead to charges being brought for manslaughter and corporate manslaughter against individuals and organisations. 


Dame Judith Hackitt published the final report into her review of building regulations and fire safety in May 2018. The government commissioned the review following the fire. She made some 50 recommendations, but disappointed many by failing to call for a ban on the use of flammable cladding on high rise buildings. 


Last year public services union UNISON scored a huge legal victory in the Supreme Court forcing the government to abolish employment tribunal fees, but the government is continuing its attack on access to justice. Unions and their solicitors are currently opposing government plans to increase the small claims limit and take away the right of injured people to have free and independent legal advice in road traffic accident cases up to £5,000, and in all other cases (including accidents at work) up to £2,000. The government is using the Civil Liability Bill, currently going through parliament, to give powers to ministers to bring in these changes through regulations. Unions say the complexity of workplace injury cases makes them entirely unsuitable for a small claims court, where the costs of taking a case cannot be recovered.


This year marks the TUC’s 150 anniversary and it has recently run a six-month campaign celebrating 40 years since unions gained legal rights for safety reps under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977. 


The role of the union movement’s 100,000 safety reps, along with effective solidarity and collective action to champion safe working practices, are as important now as they have ever been. It is crucial for reps to continue to link health and safety and organising in the interests of all workers, as well as continuing to campaign at local and national level.



It is also extremely important for reps to have a good knowledge of health and safety legislation. This booklet sets out the law using clear and practical language, explains the changes that have taken place since the last edition, and addresses further changes and likely developments for 2018-19. It is aimed at trade union members and reps, and will be of particular use to safety reps.



Health and Safety Law 2018 aims to provide safety reps and other trade union reps with a comprehensive guide to the law on health and safety at work. The booklet examines the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the regulations made under the Act that deal with specific areas of health and safety. It looks at:



• the basic structure of health and safety law (Chapter 1);



• health and safety enforcement (Chapter 2);



• the management of health and safety (Chapter 3);



• safety representatives and safety committees (Chapter 4);



• the workplace and the working environment (Chapter 5);



• hazardous substances (Chapter 6);



• work equipment and clothing (Chapter 7);



• physical hazards, such as manual handling and repetitive tasks, fire, noise, vibration, radiation, electricity and gas (Chapter 8);



• hours of work (Chapter 9);



• the reporting of accidents and ill health (Chapter 10); and



• stress, bullying, harassment and violence (also called psychosocial risks) (Chapter 11).



Sources



The Acts and regulations referred to in this booklet can all be found on the Legislation UK website at: www.legislation.gov.uk.



Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) and guidance on regulations are published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and can be downloaded free of charge from its website at: www.hse.gov.uk.



This booklet also provides examples from legal claims, known as “case law”. In each instance the case reference is given, consisting of the name of the individual or body making the application to the Court and the individual or body against whom it is being made.



For example, Allison v London Underground Ltd [2008] IRLR 440 tells you that the applicant was called Allison, the case was brought against London Underground Ltd and the judgment was reported in the law reports for 2008. The letters IRLR stand for the publication it was reported in, Industrial Relations Law Reports, and the number 440 indicates that the case was reported on page 440.



Other important court cases and employment tribunal decisions not reported in IRLR are referenced wherever possible, either as they appeared in the press, or by the Court or tribunal reference number.


The Labour Research Department (LRD) provides an enquiry service for affiliates and deals with health and safety enquiries from union members and reps. Details of how to affiliate are available at: www.lrdpublications.org.uk/affiliations.php.



The monthly publications Safety Rep, Labour Research and Workplace Report also include many health and safety topics, as do LRD booklets. For further information and ordering details see the LRD website at: www.lrdpublications.org.uk.