In this blog I thought it might be useful to take a quick look at the principal changes that have occurred to NEBOSH health and safety qualifications as a result of Brexit.
Before I start, I’m just going to set out a few caveats:
- I’m only going to look at current NEBOSH courses where the course content has been impacted by Brexit.
- I’m only going to look at the impact in the context of the NEBOSH course – specifically syllabus content changes and the likely impact on examinable content.
So if you are a chemical manufacturer based in Belfast wondering what the impacts of Brexit will be for you in terms of selling product in England or Wales I’m afraid you will find my summary painfully thin.
Oh What Tangled Webs We Weave…
Many of the changes have required the implementation of multiple sets of amending regulations in order to make the legal framework functional. The result is a tangled web of legislation, much of it in the form of ‘EU Exit’ regulations. If you cut through the tangles, what you’ll find is that much of the long-standing UK health and safety legislation is the same as it has always been. It’s just that various references to the EU and EU sources have been replaced.
So COSHH still applies, MHSWR still applies, the DSE regs still apply, etc. And since all of these regulations were home-grown anyway (i.e. passed by the UK Parliament) this is not surprising. Whilst it is true that many of these sets of regulations were passed in order to implement an EU Directive, it is the case that the UK has usually gone above and beyond the required minimum standards set out in the directive and has often introduced legislation in the absence of any EU prompt. HSWA and COSHH pre-date any EU directives on such matters.
So whilst the technical legal framework may have changed the non-technical legal framework has largely stayed the same. This includes HSWA and lots of long-standing regulations that address specific topics such as noise, vibration, radiation (both ionising and non-ionising), manual handling, lifting operations, working at height, etc.
The most significant changes have inevitably occurred where direct-acting EU legislation was involved or where EU legislation was deeply embedded in the UK legal standard. Specifically, the supply of machinery and the supply of chemicals.
So having set the scene, what are the major impacts of Brexit for NEBOSH courses?
Brexit and NEBOSH: The Influence of the EU on UK law
Because the UK is now out of the EU the law-making mechanism that the UK previously had to abide by and take note of (and, incidentally, was a part of) no longer apply. So the influence of EU Directives and Regulations is indirect rather than direct.
Old National General Certificate (2014 specification) Unit NGC1: Element 1
[also old Fire and Construction Certificates (2014 spec) as shared this unit]
In the old NGC1 syllabus (2014 spec) there used to be a single line about the influence of EU Directives and Regulations on UK law in Element 1.
This bullet point has been removed.
So if you’ve got some old NGC1 course materials lying around delete the tiny bit of text on influence of EU law and forget about it.
This will likely have zero impact on any exam questions. It was not an area that I can ever remember the examiner showing any interest in, in the past anyway.
New National General Certificate course (2019 spec)
This topic does not feature in the new NG course (2019 spec) so there is no impact of any sort.
National Diploma (2015 spec) Unit A: Element A2
NEBOSH have removed all references to EU Directives and Regulations, the EU bodies such as European Parliament and Commission and legislative processes.
They have also removed all reference to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
This means that sections of the Unit A course materials in Element A2 (bits of topic A2.1, all of topic A2.2 and a bit of topic A2.3) are officially redundant and can be ignored.
No doubt a great relief to anybody who has been eyeing up the EU legislative process, as this was occasionally poked with a stick by the examiner. Let’s face it; getting to grips with the way that the UK Parliament operates is bad enough without the added burden of the EU bodies and processes on top. I just feel sorry for all of those (potentially aggrieved) learners who have gone before who have had no choice but to square up to the EU stuff.
Brexit and NEBOSH: Machinery safety
There are no changes of any note for the end-users of machinery. They will still have to look to PUWER for the legal standard. And, of course, if the machine is an item of lifting equipment then LOLER as well.
The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations and the associated EU legislation that required anyone who manufactures or imports machinery into the EU or UK to ensure that the machinery meets essential health and safety standards and is in fact safe still apply in broad principle.
However, there is some divergence in that CE marking will cease to be acceptable as the form of marking. It is to be replaced by UKCA marking in most cases. I say most cases because there are alternative arrangements for Northern Ireland – see the HSE website for a full breakdown.
Old National/ International General Certificate (2014 spec) Unit GC2: Element 4
New National General Certificate (2019 spec) Unit NG2: Element 9
The focus of these courses is never on the technical detail of the legal framework. There is far more emphasis on practical issues. So if you take note of the information set out below and simply note that for the UK CE marking is being replaced by UKCA marking that should be sufficient.
National Diploma Unit C: Element C6
The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations remains the legal standard.
The regulations are mostly unchanged. They still require that:
- machinery meets the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR)
- a technical file is created and maintained
- end-user instructions are included
Minor changes are made in that:
- the machine must conform to designated standards (these replace harmonised standards)
- Conformity assessment, if done by an external body, is done by an Approved Conformity Assessment Body
- the CE mark is replaced by UKCA (United Kingdom Conformity Assessment) mark if the machine is intended for use in GB ( this becomes mandatory from the end of 2021)
Note that there are some very convoluted rules around Northern Ireland, but I think these are beyond even Diploma so don’t worry about them unduly.
Brexit and NEBOSH: Chemicals, Substances and Mixtures
Again much of the end-user focused legislation is the same as it has always been. Or, if amended, then the amendments are simply there to replace an EU reference source. So COSHH, Control of Asbestos and Control of Lead at Work regulations are, to all intent and purposes, the same.
The major changes are to direct acting EU Regulations which have become deeply embedded in the UK over recent years, namely CLP and REACH. Again the HSE website has a lot of technical info on these changes.
Old National/ International General Certificate (2014 spec) Unit GC2: Element 7
New National General Certificate (2019 spec) Unit NG2: Element 7
As with the machinery safety topic, both CLP and REACH were only ever passingly referenced in either General Certificate course. So the changes to these courses are of no practical significance. If you want an easy short-cut then just write GB in front of every mention of CLP and UK in front of every mention of REACH and you won’t be far wrong!
National Diploma Unit B: Element B2
The EU CLP regulation is retained in UK law so the same basic processes and principles apply. The retained law, along with the various sets of regulations required to make it function, are referred to as GB CLP.
The harmonised classification and labelling standards (in table 3.1 of Part 3 of Annex VI of CLP) have been replaced by the Mandatory Classification and Labelling (MCL) list. (No doubt this will be a blessed relief to some of you as it’s easier to remember MCL list than table 3.1 of … blah, blah, blah). This list appears to be identical to the harmonised classification list and is ‘hosted’ (their word not mine) by HSE as the GB CLP Agency.
Otherwise GB CLP seems to be the same as CLP (at least for now).
The REACH regulation is also retained in UK law and the same basic processes and principles apply. The retained law, and the various amending regulations required to make it all work, are referred to as UK REACH.
The most notable difference between REACH and UK REACH is that the HSE replaces the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as The Agency. So they take on the role of principal authority.
Brexit and NEBOSH: Underpinning Law
Is byzantine in the extreme but from what I can see:
European Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP) is retained by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 as amended by various regulations such as, the Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use)(Amendments etc.)(EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and is known as GB CLP.
Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is retained in UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and is amended by various regulations such as, for example, the REACH etc. (Amendment etc.)(EU Exit) Regulations 2020 and is known as UK REACH.
And finally Ronnie…
Well that was about as much fun as hanging upside down with your head in a bucket of hyena offal.
Now what does that remind me of?
Oh I don’t know…
Dr Jim Phelpstead BSc, PhD, CMIOSH
RRC Consultant Tutor