Working at Height Laws May Yet Be Saved
THE PASSING OF A NEW LAW scrapping the UK’s safety regulations, including Working at Height rules, may yet be stopped, it has been reported.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, sponsored by Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, completed its committee stage in Parliament and is waiting to go back to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.
The Retained EU Law bill will repeal all European shared legislation in the UK at the end of 2023, ditching around 4,000 laws, including critical safety rules.
Over Easter, the Guardian newspaper reported threats of a cross-party revolt have resulted in the government delaying the bill until after local elections on 4 May and possibly indefinitely.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height met on 28 March, alarmed at the prospect of the 2005 Working at Height Regulations being ditched, along with around 2,000 other H&S laws protecting around 1 million businesses and 10 million UK workers. The Regulations set out how risk from working at height should be managed to prevent falls.
The Access Industry Forum (AIF), a member of the APPG, says the regulations are critical to the safe operation of sectors like roofing. Without them, employers would not have to ensure workers are competent, select suitable access equipment for each task or inspect that equipment regularly.
AIF Chair, Peter Bennett OBE
AIF Chair Peter Bennett OBE, said: “We are aware that there has been speculation in the press that there may be a climb-down in sight and the 2000 or more health & safety regulations which were at risk of being rescinded will not now be sunsetted. If that is the case, it will represent a triumph for common sense and will be gladly welcomed throughout UK industry, amongst employers and workforce alike. However, we cannot rely upon speculation and we would once again urge the Secretary of State [Mel Stride MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions] to clarify the intentions of the Government unequivocally and without delay.”
The Retained EU Law bill would also jeopardize life-saving principles such as the need to prioritise collective fall prevention measures (like guardrails) over personal fall prevention measures (like harnesses) and to carry out work from ground level wherever possible. It would also remove other safeguard regulations, such as for PPE and manual handling.
Under the Retained EU Law, civil servants and ministers would be responsible for deciding if any EU shared laws should be kept without consulting Parliament.
Peter Bennet added, “We need to do more to prevent falls from height, not weaken the protections that are already embedded in workplaces across the UK and have been working well for 17 years.
“The UK is a world-leader in preventing falls from height and should be proud of our consistently low fatality rates and our internationally recognised expertise. The Work at Height Regulations are a cornerstone of our national strategy to prevent falls. But by the end of the year, they could be gone.”
The AIF has warned that if the Bill passes and a replacement to the Work at Height Regulations is formulated, it could result in a diluted version. This is because the Bill allows replacement regulations to be made less burdensome but not more burdensome for employers and changes can be made without stakeholder or parliamentary consultation.
The Access Industry Forum (AIF) unites the ten principal trade associations and federations involved in work at height: ATLAS, EPF, FASET, IPAF, IRATA, Ladder Association, NASC, PASMA, SAEMA and WAHSA.
It represents manufacturers, hire centres, suppliers, training companies and instructors and organisations providing work at height services.
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