The Government have announced plans for a new UK product safety marking regime in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Although still awaiting Parliamentary approval, draft legislation has been put forward on the proposed new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) product safety marking for new UK products placed on the UK market in the event of a no-deal.

This new regime will mirror the existing CE marking in Europe. Currently CE marking is placed on many consumer goods throughout the EU from machinery and electrical equipment to children's toys, and is intended to demonstrate that products are compliant with their relevant essential requirements.

Dependent on the product, the manufacturers themselves may test and issue a Declaration of Conformity for the product which then allows the CE marking to be affixed. For certain, typically higher risk products, like certain types of machinery, a third party assessor is required to carry out tests. These are referred to as Notified Bodies, and they assess whether the product can meet the relevant essential requirements.

As a member of the EU, UK-based Notified Bodies can assess products for the EU market, however if the UK leaves the EU without a deal the EU will no longer recognise UK-based Notified Bodies. Consequently manufacturers who are using UK-based assessors will no longer be able to apply the CE marking.

In response to this the Government intends to reclassify those UK Notified Bodies as UK Approved Bodies. These bodies will then be eligible to assess products against UK requirements for product safety and issue the new UKCA marking for compliant products.

The Government have said that in the event of a no-deal exit the UK will still accept the CE marking on many products for the sale of products on the UK market, however in some cases manufacturers will need to apply the new UKCA marking to products being sold in the UK.

Despite this some have raised concerns over the cost implications the new product safety marking could have.

Chief executive of the manufacturers' organisation EEF, Stephen Phipson, commented: "In a very short period of time, thousands of companies are going to have to spend millions of pounds collectively on changing all their markings to comply with the new mark."

No deal planning guidance issued by the Government also warned that "Products which were assessed by a UK-based notified body will need to be reassessed by an EU-recognised conformity assessment body before placing on the EU market." Which means for some products two sets of tests may have to be carried out at the manufacturers expense.

For information on the subject, see:

A refuse company has been fined £1 million this month after a worker was run over and killed.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how in October 2013 an employee of a waste company, Veolia ES (UK) Limited, suffered fatal injuries after he was run over by a reversing refuse vehicle (RCV), whilst he was walking across the yard at a depot waste transfer station.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that multiple vehicles, including RCVs and articulated lorries, were manoeuvring around the yard with no specific controls.

The company failed to adequately assess the risks involved in the yard and did not implement industry recognised control measures to protect employees.

Veolia ES (UK) Limited was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £130,000.

HSE inspector, Kevin Golding commented: "this should be a reminder to all industries, but in particular, the waste industry, to appropriately assess the risks and implement widely recognised control measures to adequately control manoeuvring vehicles, in particular reversing vehicles and restrict pedestrian movements around vehicles".

An Essex-based builder has been sentenced this month after putting three people at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Colchester Magistrates' Court heard that in June 2017 a builder, trading as DEC Roofing & General Building Ltd, was contracted to build a single storey extension to the rear of a house in Corringham. 

When assessing the work, the builder had been told by the homeowner that the boiler flue exited the rear of the property, where the extension was to be built. The builder advised this would not be a problem, and that he would arrange for a plumber to move the flue, so it exited the side of the property.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that DEC Roofing & General Building Ltd failed to ensure the gas boiler flue was moved to a safe place, such as the side of the property, before the extension was built. The gas flue was, therefore, releasing the products of combustion into the finished extension, which the homeowner was alerted to by a carbon monoxide alarm. 

The builder, pleaded guilty to breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations SI 1998/2451. He was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 24 months, 30 days rehabilitation and 150 hours of community unpaid work. He will also be paying £3,000 in costs to be paid over the next six months. 

HSE inspector Jessica Churchyard commented that the builder "showed a clear disregard for the law and put his customers' lives at risk, by not arranging for a competent person to move the gas flue to a safe place before the extension was completed".

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards".

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have submitted a proposal to restrict the use of microplastics that are intentionally added to mixtures used by consumers and professionals. It follows the consultation ran in early 2018 which aimed to collect information on such possible restrictions.

ECHA's assessment found that microplastics (or microbeads) are likely to accumulate in terrestrial environments, due to its concentration in sewage sludge, which is often used as fertiliser, as well as entering the water environment directly, due to the small size of the particles which pass through the water treatment system.

It was found that the persistence and the potential for adverse effects of bioaccumulation of microplastics is a cause for concern, where such plastics could last for thousands of years and are almost impossible to remove, once entered the environment.

The proposed restriction targets intentionally added microplastics in products from which they will inevitably be released to the environment. The definition of microplastic is wide, covering small, typically microscopic (less than 5mm), synthetic polymer particles that resist (bio)degradation.

The scope covers a wide range of uses in consumer and professional products in multiple sectors, including cosmetic products, detergents and maintenance products, paints and coatings, construction materials and medicinal products, as well as various products used in agriculture (which was found to be one of the biggest sources of intentionally added microplastics) and horticulture and in the oil and gas sectors.

In early 2018 England, and soon after Wales and Scotland, banned the sale, use and manufacture of rinse-off personal care products that contain microplastics. However, the ban did not cover other sectors.

For more information on this subject, see:

  • Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations SI 2017/1312;
  • Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Wales) Regulations SI 2018/760; and
  • Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2018/162.

A study published by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned that box waste collections typically used by Councils for recycling waste could be causing long-term musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for workers. They urge local authorities who use this type of service for waste collections to discontinue them as a matter of urgency.

The study carried out by the University of Greenwich used body mapping to observe worker's MSDs experiences. Workers identified where they felt pain or discomfort during work activities and recorded the results on a chart or questionnaire. Self-reported pain by waste collection workers was found to be at its highest in both the lower and upper back, shoulders and spine.

Bin waste collection services were found to have fewer MSDs associated with their use than boxes and bag collections.

Dr David Thomas, Academic Portfolio Lead in the School of Design at the University of Greenwich and a Member of IOSH’s Environmental and Waste Management Group Committee, commented: ''The findings of this research present a timely opportunity for organisations to consider how they protect their workforces. Rather than organisations focusing on generic ‘capability’ for a ‘fit youngster’ they need to consider how they accommodate an ever-increasing ageing workforce when developing systems of work. It is also an opportunity for organisations to accept that their current methods of managing work can create ill-health problems and consider ways to make workforces more sustainable in the future including changing systems of work.''

Unison’s Head of Local Government, Jon Richards added: ''Workers in the waste sector are in dangerous, physically demanding and stressful roles. Musculoskeletal disorders are among the many common causes of ill health, along with stress, depression, anxiety and road accidents. We welcome the findings of this report and the steps outlined to reduce the physical impact on workers.''

The National Audit Office (NAO) has said British taxpayers face a £24 billion bill for tax relief awarded to oil and gas companies removing hundreds of North Sea wells, rigs and pipelines.

The NAO said the figure would climb if companies collapse and are unable to pay for cleaning up their operations, leaving the Government to pay for them.

The industry has contributed to more than £300 billion in tax revenues to the Treasury since the 1960s. North Sea production peaked in the mid 1980s and the late 1990s, and has been declining ever since.

Tax revenue peaked at about 3% of GDP during the 1980s, but slumped as output from the region declined. A combination of low oil prices and decommissioning costs resulted in the industry becoming a net drain for Government funding for the first time in 2016.

The NAO, in a report on the cost of decommissioning the region's oil and gas fields, said the Treasury faced a £24 billion bill because of tax arrangements.

Approximately half of the figure comes from decommissioning reducing companies' taxable profits, with the rest from tax relief based on the large sums of tax paid historically. The relief allows companies to offset decommissioning costs against revenue, cutting the amount of tax they pay on their profits.

The vast majority of the costs will land over the next 20 years, with a small amount falling as late as the 2060s. However this £24 billion estimate was "highly uncertain" as it relied on factors that are hard to predict, such as future oil prices.

The bill could also be bigger if oil and gas companies become insolvent, leaving the Government liable for clean-up costs.

The NAO have commented that: "taxpayers are ultimately liable for the total cost of decommissioning assets that operators cannot decommission".

The report revealed there have been cases of companies defaulting on their clean-up obligations. The Treasury had to pay out £5.4 million in 2016 and £45 million in 2017 for decommissioning because of unnamed companies not meeting the costs.

Decommissioning involves everything from plugged old wells to removing the miles of pipelines on the seabed in the region.

The industry has been set a target of reducing the total costs of decommissioning by 35% in three years' time. However, experts have said this is very ambitious.

Labour said the Government needed to rethink changes last year that allow buyers of oil and gas fields to inherit the seller's tax relief.

The Shadow Treasury Minister, Clive Lewis commented: "the obvious issue looming over all of this is the climate emergency. We know we need to urgently be ending the UK's resilience on fossil fuels, not offering yet more tax breaks for big oil companies".

Oil and Gas UK said it was wholly committed to making decommissioning cost-effective and environmentally responsible.

The Government said it is working to reduce costs, that "by providing tax relief on decommissioning, we are attracting continued investment into our reserves - supporting jobs, boosting the economy and protecting our energy supply"

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