LRD Booklets July 2019

Health and safety law 2019

Introduction

Introduction


[pages 8-11]

This latest edition of the Labour Research Department’s annual guide to health and safety law is being published at a time of great political uncertainty, including the UK’s departure date from the European Union. 


As Health and Safety Law 2019 goes to press, the new Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, is maintaining his position of a hard Brexit in the event of no deal by 31 October 2019. He has also made no secret of his opposition to European social legislation, including the Working Time Directive, which led to the UK Working Time Regulations 1998.


If there is a no-deal Brexit, existing EU-derived health and safety laws and regulations will initially remain part of UK law under the European Union Withdrawal Act. But they will be vulnerable to downgrading post-Brexit if there is no deal with the EU to secure ongoing compliance and to avoid a regulatory race to the bottom.


The TUC and CBI employers’ organisation say the possibility of a no-deal scenario constitutes a national emergency and that the shock waves from it would be felt by generations to come.


“Crashing out of Europe without a plan risks many of our hard-won rights at work, and the thousands of good jobs that rely on trade,” the TUC warns. “If we end up with a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, workers will be the ones who pick up the tab.” 


Even with a deal, former TUC head of health and safety Hugh Robertson warned that, unless there is an agreement with the EU that includes a commitment to match or exceed future EU regulations, “it is highly likely that once any post-exit transition period is over parliament will be free to rewrite our health and safety laws”.


Given this situation, the role of the union movement’s 100,000 safety reps, along with effective solidarity and collective action to champion safe working practices, is vital. Reps have a crucial role in linking health and safety and organising in the interests of all workers, as well as campaigning at local and national level.
As such, it is extremely important that they have a good knowledge of health and safety legislation to make sure that employers comply with hard-won health and safety protections. 


Health and Safety Law 2019 includes developments which have taken place at European level over the last year and highlights union concerns about the weakening of health and safety protections post-Brexit. It also covers all the latest developments in UK health and safety law including: changes to statutory regulations; new case law; and guidance from the TUC, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and individual unions. 


The booklet aims to provide safety reps and other trade union reps with a comprehensive guide to this topic. It sets out health and safety law using clear and practical language, explains the changes that have taken place since the last edition and details forthcoming changes in the year ahead.


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 covers:



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



• health and safety enforcement (Chapter 2);



• the management of health and safety at work (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);



• working time (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 who 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 cover health and safety developments of interest to trade unionists, as do LRD booklets. For further information and ordering details see the LRD website at: www.lrdpublications.org.uk.