Safety rules protecting children from dangerous toys and vehicles and preventing exposure to asbestos will be scrapped as part of a bonfire of EU laws, campaigners have warned.
Regulations rolled back to prevent accidents on construction sites and other workplaces and alert shoppers to potentially deadly allergens in food have also raised alarm..
It has been revealed that no fewer than 212 regulations with the word “safety” in the title are about to be repealed – a fast-track move to appease pro-Brexit Tories – almost four times as many as 58 ministers have acknowledged .
One sets out child seat belt rules, another requires the identification of chemicals and other hazards in toys, and a third requires up-to-date asbestos records, including those from schools and hospitals.
Simon Joyston-Bechal, director of Turnstone Law, which specializes in health and safety law, urged the Conservatives to demand that “all red tape originating from the EU” be scrapped in recognition of the threat posed.
“Ask yourself if the teddy bear’s eye is not fastened enough that a child could choke on it, or if builders using cranes planned their lifts to avoid dropping objects onto pedestrians below body, does it matter,” he told independent.
The Royal Society for Accident Prevention (RoSPA) has pointed to the dangers of abolishing work safety rules, which could help reduce the annual death toll from 495 in 1981 to 123 in 2021-22.
“We fear that safety standards at work, at home and while traveling will soon bottom out,” said Nathan Davies, RoSPA’s policy director.
“It could take us back to the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s, when hundreds of people were killed on the job every year after a steady decline over the past two decades.”
The criticisms have opened a new front in the legislative debate to scrap or replace some 2,400 so-called “retention laws” by the end of 2023 to draw a line under Brexit.
Concerns have been raised about worker rights, environmental protection and consumer standards, but attention is now turning to safety rules, including:
* Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 – regulates how toys are marketed, specifying whether toys present a choking hazard, contain chemicals, or present a risk of loose parts.
*Motor Vehicles (Children in Front Seats Wearing Seat Belts) Regulations 1993 – provides for limited exceptions.
* The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – ensure that construction projects are properly supervised to mitigate “the risks involved”, ensure companies employ “the right people for the right job” and that hazards are communicated “effectively”.
* Asbestos Control Regulations 2012 – requires all property owners to keep an accurate register of where dangerous asbestos is located to avoid accidental exposure.
* 2011 “Food Information to Consumers” legislation – sets out “Food and Beverage Labeling Requirements” to alert shoppers to potentially deadly allergens.
* Work Health and Safety Regulations 1999 – sets out actions employers must take.
Rishi Sunak has so far resisted pressure to put the brakes on the Remaining EU Laws (Revocation and Reform) Bill, despite criticism that important laws will be lost in a hurry.
Ministers declined to say which rules would expire on 31 December 2023 and which could be replaced – while making them “less burdensome”.
Does not require any consultation before making a decision – Behind the backs of MPs, through secondary regulation, without proper scrutiny.
Many suspect the move will make it harder for future governments to rejoin the bloc’s single market by taking the UK further away from the regulatory “level playing field” demanded by Brussels.
There could also be costs to ripping up the rules if the disagreement sparks disputes under the Brexit trade deal – which could allow Brussels to limit British companies’ access to EU markets.
Labor MP Hilary Benn, co-convenor of the cross-party UK Trade and Business Committee, which is investigating the controversy, urged ministers to listen to “business and industry experts and drop the bill”.
“The government is playing a dangerous ideological game, threatening to flood the UK with dangerous products and weaken regulation of asbestos building, all in the name of a vague sense of ‘control’ that business doesn’t demand,” he said.
A government spokesman said the bill would allow the UK to “take full advantage of the benefits of Brexit”.
It will “enable us to ensure our laws and regulations are best suited to the country’s needs, maintain vital protections and safeguards and support jobs”.