GGF Health, Safety and Environment Manager, James MacPherson provides updates on the legal side of Health, Safety and Environment.
As we start to see the relaxing of COVID restrictions we remember that there is much more going on in the world and the GGF will now start to provide members Legal updates to help you be more proactive.
Progress on Parliamentary Bills
In other areas, there remains the progress of three key bills to watch: The Fire Safety Bill, the Building Safety Bill and the Environment Bill.
The Fire Safety Bill
The Fire Safety Bill is (hopefully) nearing the end of its passage through Parliament. It is intended to clarify the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) by clarifying that the fire safety obligations of the Responsible Person (usually owners or managers) of multi-occupancy residential buildings extend to the structure and external walls (including balconies and windows) and individual flat entrance doors that open into common parts.
The FSO as it stands applies to all non-domestic buildings, such as workplaces and commercial premises, but also to “the common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.”
On 22 March, the Bill went back to the House of Commons for Lords amendments to be considered, where MPs rejected a move to give more protection to leaseholders and tenants in England from facing the bill for fire safety work on buildings.
MPs voted by a majority of 69 to remove the amendment that would have made developers, contractors and product manufacturers responsible, with the government paying the costs upfront before reclaiming them. [At time of writing] The Bill has returned to the House of Lords, where it is now in the final stages of its passage through Parliament, with ‘consideration of amendments’ underway.
GGF Health, Safety and Environment Manager comment; – “as fire risk assessor in healthcare and housing in the previous role I can with confidence say that a clarification of the scope and obligations of the responsible person will be welcomed. How this will impact members could be two fold, from a product point of the view the technical team at GGF are keeping a keen eye on this. But from an Operational HSE point of view, this will make clear your duties as a responsible person of the building to manage the fire safety of your building.”
The Building Safety Bill
The Building Safety Bill makes provision for the development of a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR), which will ultimately be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during a building’s design, construction, occupation and refurbishment.
In February 2021, the Health and Safety Executive announced the appointment of a chief inspector of buildings to establish and lead the new BSR.
In this role Peter Baker, HSE’s current director of building safety and construction, will head up the Building Safety Regulator to deliver the new regime for high-risk buildings, oversee work to increase the competence of professionals working on buildings, and ensure effective oversight of the building safety environment. He will also be the first head of the building control profession, and lead the work to give independent, expert advice on building safety to industry, government, landlords and residents.
The GGF Technical and Health, Safety and Environment departments are monitoring both Building and Fire Safety bill closely.
The Environment Bill
The long-awaited Environment Bill, which was due to return to Parliament on 26 January, for the report stage, has been delayed again. The Government has confirmed that it will be rolled over into the next Parliamentary session.
Green campaigners have said the delay will harm action on air pollution and water quality, as well as other key issues. Ministers said the delay, which means the flagship bill is unlikely to pass before the autumn, was necessary because dealing with the Covid-19 crisis left too little parliamentary time for debate.
The government says it ‘remains fully committed to the environment bill.’ But in the meantime, the new environmental watchdog for England will be launched on an interim basis ahead of its formal establishment as part of the Environment Bill. From July, the new Interim Office for Environmental Protection will be set up in non-statutory form to provide independent oversight of the government’s environmental progress and to accelerate the foundation of the full body.
More on these, along with UK REACH and upcoming dates, below.
GGF Health, Safety and Environment Manager commentary, “This bill is a big statement form the UK government that may have been criticized previously for not driving the environmental agenda. This delay is not great however we must consider the context of the last year and a half, and look forward to this bill moving forward.”
Health and Safety Legal Updates
Fire safety – consultation response. The government response to the public consultation on fire safety, which ran from July to October 2020, gives a summary of the responses received and sets out the next steps the government will take to strengthen fire safety for all regulated buildings.
Legislating through the Building Safety Bill to strengthen the Fire Safety Order in a number of key areas.
Delivering new regulations through Article 24 of the Fire Safety Order in response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 Report recommendations.
Implementing changes to improve engagement between building control bodies and fire and rescue services.
On 17 March, the government also announced measures to strengthen fire safety, including unlimited fines for building owners who fire safety regulations under the Fire Safety Order and for anyone caught obstructing or impersonating a fire inspector.
The measures will amend the Fire Safety Order and will include a requirement for fire risk assessments to be recorded for each building and improve how fire safety information is handed over throughout the lifetime of a building.
The UK brought the European Union (EU) Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation into law on 1 January 2021, as UK REACH.
UK REACH places equivalent responsibilities and standards on GB companies as they had under EU REACH.
Existing EU authorisation has been carried over into UK REACH – this is referred to as ‘grandfathering’.
Upcoming key dates Notifications to the HSE: 30 April 2021 is the deadline for GB holders of existing EU REACH registrations to provide basic information to HSE:
For UK companies wishing to benefit from the system of recognition of their EU REACH registration, or grandfathering: notification must be made within 120 days of the end of the transition period (30 April 2021).
This allows registrations that have been held by a UK entity between 29 March 2017 and the end of the transition period to be recognised by UK REACH.
For UK companies wishing to register substances that they source from European companies covered by EU REACH, that is, as an importer; and also for European and non-European manufacturers with an EU REACH registration wishing to appoint a UK-based Only Representative (OR): notification must be made within 300 days of the end of the transition period (28 October 2021). Following these notifications, companies have new deadlines to complete their UK REACH registrations according to their tonnage band.
The first stage will only contain basic information on substances.
The full registration must be submitted by these deadlines from 28 October 2021:
2 years to register:
Substances imported or produced at 1000 tonnes or more per year.
CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction) at 1 tonne or more.
Substances that are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms at 100 tonnes or more; and substances on the Candidate List for authorisation (as of 31 December 2020). 4 years to register:
Substances of 100 tonnes or more per year.
The substances on the Candidate List (as of 27 October 2023).
4 years to register:
Substances of 100 tonnes or more per year.
The substances on the Candidate List (as of 27 October 2023).
6 years to register
Substances imported or produced at more than 1 tonne per year.
Restrictions under new chemical regime announced for first time On 23 March, the Government laid out plans for restrictions to be initiated under the new chemical regulation system, UK REACH, to tackle risks posed by chemicals.
The launch of the UK REACH programme includes plans to initiate the restriction process on lead ammunition which is used widely in the shooting industry and causes harm to the environment, wildlife and people.
Certain harmful substances that can be found in tattoo inks and permanent make-up could also be restricted. The ink in tattoos can sometimes contain substances that can cause health effects, most commonly skin reactions, such as irritation or sensitization. The substances this restriction proposal will consider includes, but is not limited to, substances that can cause cancer, are dangerous to reproduction, skin sensitizers and irritants.
A restriction will be introduced if evidence shows an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, and after a public consultation. The review of the evidence will be conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with support from the Environment Agency (EA). They will investigate the risk of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and consider how best to manage any identified risks.
PFAS are a group of over 9,000 different chemicals, some of which are already banned or highly restricted. In industry, these substances are used as stain repellents, coatings and fire-fighting foams. The chemicals in PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment; the substances can accumulate in animals and can also be toxic; this means PFAS are of growing concern for both human health and environmental reasons.
GGF Health, Safety and Environment Manager comment; – “REACH is one mainly for the members that work in manufacturing environments that would import chemicals as part of their process, the changes are not hugely impactful but one to be aware of for sure.”
Environment and Energy
Reforms to boost recycling and fight plastic pollution – consultations issued.
Reforms that are aimed at boosting recycling, tackling plastic pollution and reducing litter were unveiled by the government in March, with proposals to overhaul the waste and resources sector.
Powers in the government’s Environment Bill could be used to make manufacturers more responsible for the packaging they produce and incentivise consumers to recycle more.
A Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers Applies to Wales, England, and Northern Ireland
Consumers will be incentivised to take their empty drinks containers to return points hosted by retailers. Every year across the UK, consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, nine billion drinks cans and five billion glass bottles.
The scheme would cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a separate scheme already under development in Scotland.
Views are being sought on:
How a deposit return scheme will operate
Scheme scope and design
Comments should be sent by 4 June 2021.
Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging UK wide basis
Manufacturers will pay the full costs of managing and recycling their packaging waste, with higher fees being levied if packaging is harder to reuse or recycle.
In 2019, approximately 11.7 million tonnes of packaging was placed on the UK market. It is essential that more of this is recyclable or reusable.
The scheme is being developed on a UK-wide basis.
Views are sought on how the scheme will operate, including:
How the scheme will be enforced
The consultation period ends on 4 June 2021.
A third major reform will see the introduction of consistent recycling collections for all households and businesses in England. This will also be going out to consultation shortly.
Introduction of Plastic Packaging Tax from April 2022
This new tax will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. Plastic packaging is packaging that is predominantly plastic by weight.
It will not apply to any plastic packaging which contains at least 30% recycled plastic, or any packaging which is not predominantly plastic by weight. Imported plastic packaging will be liable to the tax, whether the packaging is unfilled or filled.
Who is likely to be affected?
UK manufacturers of plastic packaging, importers of plastic packaging, business customers of manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging, and consumers who buy plastic packaging or goods in plastic packaging in the UK.
The Landfill Disposals Tax (Tax Rates) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020
This came into force 1 April 2021
These Regulations set the standard rate, lower rate and unauthorized disposals rate for landfill disposals tax chargeable on taxable disposals (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Act 2017) made on or after 1 April 2021.
The standard rate is £96.70 per tonne, the lower rate is £3.10 per tonne and the unauthorized disposals rate is £145.05 per tonne
Taxable disposals made on or after 1 April 2020 but before 1 April 2021 will remain subject to rates set by the Landfill Disposals Tax (Tax Rates) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/95 (W. 16)) as a result of the amendment made by regulation 4 of these Regulations.