Issue date
28 Apr 2016

PDF iconEU membership and health and safety (pdf)

Leaving the EU could put millions of people in the UK at increased risk of accidents or injuries in the workplace.

EU Membership and Health & Safety finds that EU legislation has helped stop illnesses and injuries at work, and saved lives.

Much of the health & safety law in the UK is now underpinned by the EU. Almost two-thirds (63%) of new British health & safety regulations introduced between 1997-2009 originated in Europe (41 out of 65 laws).

These new safety rules have contributed to a reduction in workplace fatalities in the UK. In 1992 there were 368 worker fatalities in Britain; this dropped to 142 last year. Over this period, the rate of deaths fell from 1.5 to 0.46 per 100,000 workers.

The report notes a several areas where EU law has had a significant impact:

• The EU forced the UK to strengthen safety rules in construction – one of the most dangerous industries.
• Rules protecting police officers were also made stronger by the EU.
• The EU increased protections against asbestos. Asbestos is the biggest cause of occupational death in the UK – causing 5,000 deaths a year.

If the UK votes to leave the EU, the government would be able to decide whether or not to keep protections derived from EU laws. There is no guarantee that they would keep health & safety legislation at its current level. In fact the government has indicated it wants to reduce this so-called ‘red tape’ of EU protection. 

Download EU membership and health and safety (pdf)