HSE Issues New Brexit Chemical Safety Guidance

The Health and Safety Executive has this week issued new guidance on chemical safety requirements after the UK leaves the EU in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

The HSE has confirmed that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act will replicate the EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regime in domestic law, whatever the outcome.

Nevertheless, the regulator has warned businesses that there could be “significant” changes to their roles under the two identical but separate systems, particularly as initial alignment in no way guarantees that they will not diverge over time.

The guidance released on December 4 (supplementing a technical note from September) provides advice for a wide variety of scenarios up and down the chemicals supply chain.

Echoing the politicians, the HSE urged businesses to be prepared for any eventuality, stating: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The HSE and DEFRA are collaborating on an IT system for UK chemicals registration, and the HSE update insists that this will be “operable” by March 29 – when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

The UK’s departure from the EU increases the likelihood of the EU tightening up its own chemical safety requirements.

“It’s true, the first thought we had was: ‘The UK is leaving, we can ask for more ambitious measures,” Elise Vitali of the European Environmental Bureau told Politico – noting how the UK Government has frequently opposed further restrictions on chemical use.

A report from August this year found that the EU is by far the biggest market for the UK’s £12.7 billion chemicals sector – with 61 per cent of UK exports going to the EU and 73 per cent chemical imports coming from it.

Make sure you don’t fall foul of health and safety law. Read Health and Safety Adviser and get practical advice and essential guidance on how to meet all of your workplace responsibilities.