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How would the EU Referendum affect the safety of British business?

Photo shows the flag of the European UnionBy the end of 2017, the UK will decide either to remain a member of the European Union (EU) or to leave it and either of these results will have a huge impact on the safety of British businesses. Depending on your political opinion, the EU are either a gateway to a greater international voice or an unnecessary drain on our resources. Immigration, trade, and law are the three talking points that have so far captured the media’s attention. However, British occupational safety is an issue that is intimately connected with the events of the EU referendum.

The Eurosceptic view is that the EU does not help to improve the safety of the British workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been cutting funding and regulation for years and plans to do more of this, as part of the Government’s wider plan to reduce the deficit. According to the Government’s report, this plan has proved successful because it has not lead to any increase in death or injury and because business owners are behind the idea. If government oversight can be reduced without any downside, then the EU’s added oversight is not needed.

In response, a Europhile would argue that HSE’s downsizing has put businesses in serious risk. They argue that HSE cuts have created a “timebomb” and that, if these cuts continue, then it is only a matter of time before we begin to see some serious problems. From this perspective, HSE needs as much assistance as possible. At times like this, we should be reaching out to Europe, not turning them away.

The counterargument to this would be that where public spending shrinks, private enterprise should step in to ensure the safety of businesses. To a certain degree, this is already happening. There are many excellent private British health and safety firms that can help to ensure that British workplaces are as safe as they can be. If there is less HSE regulation, then businesses can take safety into their own hands with PPE training, warehousing maintenance training, or racking inspection training.

Yet the problem with this argument is that these private safety organisations can also sometimes benefit from being in the EU. Some of them are members of EU health and safety boards like the European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). Being members of these boards gives them a louder voice, more resources, and greater influence both nationally and internationally. In at least a few cases, leaving the EU will be a disastrous move for those private British health and safety organisations.

The EU referendum will undoubtedly change the way British occupational safety operates, and so the most important thing is that businesses are aware of what it will mean for them. This way, they can ensure that their company continues to deliver the highest standards of health and safety even if they don’t agree with the result. By 2018, the UK will inevitably be filled with a large minority people who are disappointed with our relationship with the EU. Yet the responsible businesses will be the ones who realise that, though they cannot control the public vote, they can take control of safety in their business.

Author Bio:

Justin O’Sullivan is a business writer, safety expert based in the South East of England. As the founder of SEMA Racking Inspections, he specialises in delivering SEMA approved racking inspections and racking inspection training across the UK.


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