The UK has a strong record on workplace health and safety, and is continuing to work towards reducing the number of accidents and fatalities across all industries, as well as lowering the number of people suffering from ill health as a result of their jobs.
However, there are concerns about what the future will hold for the safety of workers in the UK following Brexit.
A presentation made by the European Commission earlier this year suggested that the UK could see its standards for occupational health and safety lowered after exiting the EU. However, Brexit secretary David Davis has since refuted these claims in a speech at an event in Vienna.
He stressed that the government would not seek to undermine existing health and safety legislation post-Brexit, stating: “These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not our history, not our intentions, nor our national interest.”
Mr Davis added: “Frankly, the competitive challenge we in the UK and the European Union will face from the rest of the world - where 90 per cent of growth in markets will come from - will not be met by a reduction in standards.”
For many businesses, meeting and even exceeding the existing health and safety standards is sensible practice, because it ensures a productive and healthy workforce, as well as products that meet internationally accepted standards.
Just one part of this involves having appropriate emergency response plans in place to ensure all employees know what to do in the event of a serious incident.
The public are broadly behind ensuring that existing standards are maintained, or even tightened, a new survey has shown.
A poll conducted by IPPR/Opinium found that the public want to keep the existing rules or tighten them in a number of areas, the Guardian reported.
This includes 80 per cent who are in favour of this approach where consumer cancellation rights are concerned, and 70 per cent of respondents in terms of the working time directive, renewable energy targets and a cap on the bonuses paid to bankers.
The IPPR report also noted that the regulations that come from the EU typically set minimum, rather than maximum standards, which means that there is scope to exceed them, if the UK so chooses.
Director of the IPPR Tom Kibasi told the newspaper: “Our research shows there is no appetite for deregulation post-Brexit. Regulatory divergence is both anti-worker and anti-business, so it should be no surprise that the public don’t want it.”
The study also pointed out that, as the UK is a mid-sized economy, it will need to align with a larger block in order to maximise its trading opportunities. This means either aligning with the EU or the US, in practical terms.
With the EU being such an important export market for the UK, it stands to reason that, in many instances, the UK will fall into line with European standards to ensure that trade is as smooth as possible. How the government decides to tackle the introduction of new regulations and standards from the EU once it leaves though still remains to be seen.