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Brexit: the crucial issues for health and safety practitioners

Gillian Birkby, our legal adviser from Fladgate LLP, shares her thoughts on how leaving the EU may affect the UK construction industry.

Updated: February 22 2019

For health and safety practitioners in the UK, the crucial issues are the continued free movement of goods and materials, so as to reduce the amount of substitution (possibly with inferior products) during the course of a project.  

Most specifications, when identifying particular products, state, ‘or similar equivalent’ - or words to that effect.  The substitution of, ‘similar equivalent’ materials is endemic in the construction industry, sometimes for cost reasons, or because the lead times are too long.  If there is an actual, or perceived, delay in getting a hold of European products for construction work, there may be more substitution than usual.   This may be to avoid a potential cost risk – delays can be expensive.  It will be vital that any substitutions are properly scrutinised to make sure they meet health and safety and other requirements, especially if there is pressure to avoid delaying the project. From a health and safety perspective the implications of substitutions must be identified and managed correctly.

It is likely our nearest neighbours will still want to sell into the UK after Brexit, the same goods and products they do now.  Various proposals are being developed among the EU27 to ensure ‘basic connectivity’, ie uninterrupted flow of people, goods and vehicles between the UK and Europe, by air, sea, road and train.  
One way of achieving this is the plan that the EU27 permit the current EU licences and certificates for these means of transport to continue in force for a limited period.  It seems an obvious point, but UK planes do need to be able to fly over EU27 countries and land at their airports.  This is governed by licences and authorisations, related partly to the safety standards currently applied to UK planes as well as those of the rest of the EU, so if they remain in force for a further period, that will make the transport of goods by air much more straightforward post Brexit.