While we cannot possibly know the full implications of Britain’s exit from the European Union for the fire-safety industry, we can certainly make some educated forecasts.
For now, it’s business as usual. EU legislation is still being followed as normal, but in future approvals, testing and the harmonised standards we currently comply with could all feel the knock-on effect.
There is no doubt that EU law, including its Framework Directive, has been a major influence on UK guidelines such as the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 bill. But it seems very unlikely that the entire Fire Safety Order would be reworked, especially as regulations such as EN3 are subject to British Standards anyway.
And although standards are, in theory, harmonised across EU member states, Brexit has prompted us to look more closely at the somewhat different reality in various countries around the continent. The fact is that compliance, and interpretations of compliance, vary greatly from nation to nation, and many countries recognise their local authorities’ standards above all else.
European Committee for Standardisation
The UK is rightly seen as a standard bearer for health and safety, including fire, and as such our installation standards seem unlikely to drop following an EU exit. It is also worth considering the possibility that although the UK may leave the EU, it could remain a member of CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation.
It was interesting to hear the views of Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, who appears to be firmly in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it camp’. Speaking after the referendum result he said: “Post-Brexit, the UK now has less influence over EU law.
“Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health and safety system, which includes laws from EU directives, because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews and is respected and imitated across the world.”
Any revisions made to current regulations could of course lead to a tightening of guidelines and, in some areas – especially where manufacturers are concerned – we all know this would be welcome. A 2014 investigation by the BBC, for example, found that eight out of 10 sofas bought on Britain’s high streets failed fire safety standards. Brexit could lead to the shake-up we need.
From the point of view of my company, FSS South, an unwanted aspect of what lies ahead post-Brexit is the drain on our time and that of other fire-safety specialists in the event of wholesale regulatory changes.
I don’t think I’m alone in believing that above all else, a lot of common sense should be applied to ensure that the post-Brexit transition is as uncomplicated as possible for the industry. Not only will this make ensuring compliance at all levels simpler, it will also allow us to communicate more clearly with our customers.