Implications for Health & Safety Regulations If We Vote to Leave the EU

European UnionUnited Kingdom EU referendum 2017 – What if the United Kingdom exits the EU as a result of a majority vote in favour of departure? Surely a fundamental topic for debate regarding health and safety over the next few years will be the consequences if the United Kingdom votes in favour of departure from the European Union.
Who will benefit, who will suffer or may it be that there will be no impact at all?

The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work (Directive 89/391 EEC) adopted in 1989 was a substantial milestone in improving safety and health at work. It guarantees minimum safety and health requirements throughout Europe while Member States are allowed to maintain or establish more stringent measures.

We could consider a myriad of topics for discussion, but one which is of particular interest is that of comparisons. More specifically, health and safety systems differ across Europe in recording, reporting and enforcement. The European statistical office (Eurostat) published its most recent data for 2013/14. Data available on Eurostat shows that UK performance is favourable compared to other EU countries, with relatively low rates of work-related fatalities, injuries and ill health (Health and Safety Executive, 2014) .

The Facts and Figures

The UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU. In 2011 the standardised rate was 0.74 per 100 000 workers, which compares favourably with other large economies such as France (2.74 per 100 000 workers), Germany (0.94 per 100 000 workers), Italy (1.5 per 100 000 workers) and Spain (2.16 per 100 000 workers) (Health and Safety Executive, 2014).

In 2007, 1.8% of UK workers reported an injury occurring at work that resulted in sick leave. Compared to other large economies, this was similar to Germany (1.9%), lower than Italy (2.3%), Spain (3.1%) and the EU-27 average (2.2%), and higher than Poland (1.0%) (Health and Safety Executive, 2014).
In 2007, 2.9% of UK workers reported a work-related illness resulting in sick leave. This is lower than Germany (3.9%), Spain (4.2%), Poland (11.8%) and the overall EU-27 rate (5.5%) (Health and Safety Executive, 2014).
Standardised incidence rates (per 100 000 workers) of fatal injuries at work in GB/UK and the EU, 1998-2011 (Health and Safety Executive, 2014)

Overall UK Performance

Additionally, shown below is an abstract from analysis of the determinants of workplace
occupational safety and health practice in a selection of EU Member States.

The data suggests that the United Kingdom has the highest level of in-house risk assessment of our selected Member States (European Risk Observatory, 2013). A recent United Kingdom survey confirms the figures, showing particularly high levels of risk assessment implementation: 89% of establishments with a written health and safety policy in place (which itself represented 93% of the survey’s sample) reported that the policy included a risk assessment procedure, with 94% of respondents overall claiming to be operating some form of risk assessment, either as part of a health and safety policy or as a standalone procedure (European Risk Observatory, 2013).

There was, however, variation with size: a greater proportion of large and medium-sized organisations reported having risk assessment procedures in place, and all aspects of ‘good’ risk assessment behaviour were more common among large and medium sized establishments (European Risk Observatory, 2013).


So in the light of these statistics what would be the implications of the UK leaving the EU?

Although there is still much to be done, it can be seen by the data  above, the United Kingdom is leading the way in health and safety management. In our view, the strong health and safety management culture in the UK would continue irrespective of whether we stay in or not. In fact, the fallout from us leaving could result in other member states performance declining, as we will no longer be there to inspire or demonstrate adherence to health and safety directives.

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(i) European Risk Observatory. (2013). Analysis of the determinants of workplace. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union,.
(ii) Health and Safety Executive. (2014, October). European Comparisons: Summary of UK Performance. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from Health and safety statistics:
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence.

Crazy EU Directives – True or False

We frequently read a story in the media about a ridiculous initiative the EU have come up with. How many of these “crazy EU directives” are actually real:
  • Banana’s should not be too bendy – True
  • Waters does not hydrate you – True
  • Turnips cannot be labeled “swedes”, except in one place – True
  • Eggs cannot be sold by the dozen – True

For more information on EU Directives click here