Union Jack

How Brexit will impact products that are ‘made in Britain’

Supply chain management is critical to successfully navigating the UK’s exit from the EU.

Much has been made of Brexit’s impact on British exports, but ‘Made in Britain’ relies heavily on our ability to import. Almost half of the UK’s £736bn imports are goods that make up part of a final product, and nearly half those so-called ‘intermediary goods’ come from the EU. 

This is already having an impact on supply chains. Mckinsey interviewed 50 UK executives whose companies make everything from face creams to fenders to fettuccine, and found deep concern about the near-term uncertainty and impact of Brexit.

Food manufacturers worry that their goods will spoil while being held up at borders, and almost everyone is grappling with the uncertainty of higher tax duties if the UK leaves the EU and reverts to most-favoured nation status under WTO rules. It’s not just UK and EU products that are affected, however, many intermediary products that come to the UK are from countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU.  

Read more here.

What Britain’s bosses really think about Brexit

Departing the EU is not the only issue keeping CEOs up at night.

With a few notable exceptions, the leaders of Britain’s biggest businesses have generally been reticent to nail their personal colours to the mast when it comes to Brexit – at least in public.

After all, unless you’re actively trying to lobby one way or the other, why take the risk of alienating voters (i.e. customers and colleagues) on either side of the divide?

It can be hard to tell, therefore, what they’re really thinking. That’s why, as part of our annual Britain’s Most Admired Companies survey, Echo Research asked 56 chairs and CEOs representing a variety of FTSE 250 businesses what keeps them up at night, on the proviso that we’d keep it anonymous.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit – in particular the UK’s lack of preparation ahead of the March 29 deadline – is the primary cause of C-suite insomnia, with 37 per cent listing it. A further 19 per cent said that political uncertainty and instability was leaving them restless (though in the context of recent events, that’s arguably the same thing).

Read more here.

Health & Safety

10 ways to make work safer in 2019

Brexit, of course, but health and safety will also be impacted by many other agendas. Jocelyn Dorrell and Elaine Knutt survey the trends and the experts.

Crystal ball gazing is always a difficult sport, but at the beginning of 2019 the view is clouded by the “B word”. With the uncertainties and ramifications laid out in every news bulletin, it’s impossible to predict what shape Brexit might take, or to extrapolate implications for health and safety.

Except, of course, that Brexit is having a braking effect on other aspects of the UK’s legislative agenda. Whether it’s the regime change needed to fully implement the Hackitt Review, or the civil service capacity to respond to the dearth of occupational health provision, or the HSE having to draw up extensive contingency plans on chemical regulation under a no-deal Brexit, the issue of our times is undoubtedly sucking staff resources, time and energy away from other agendas.

Brexit uncertainty will also be affecting business planning cycles at many organisations.

However, according to IT consultancy Verdantix, above-inflation levels of investment are being found for new health and safety management software to help boost compliance – and organisations’ reputational capital, particularly as voluntary reporting initiatives are gaining ground.

Perhaps the underlying economic uncertainty has also dulled businesses’ appetite for accruing management standards accreditations: uptake of the ISO 45001 on health and safety has been “below predictions”. A better economic outlook, and the security that comes with it, might encourage more registrations, although it’s likely that a spurt will only be seen closer to the March 2021 deadline for migration from BS OHSAS 18001.

However, in the context of Brexit, organisations might want to think about ISO 45001 as a form of passport. “Besides the normal business benefits, this is a globally accepted standard. In this era of shifting trading blocks and barriers, it will provide the passport to transcend national boundaries,” says consultant Chris Ward, who helped to draft the standard and now audits to it.

“As the economy inches forward, working lives become longer and technology marches ahead, health and safety can expect to be at heart of them”

Growing use of “disruptive” technology is an inescapable theme for 2019. As we increasingly adopt devices such as the Alexa and Google Assistant at home, the possibilities offered by interactive devices, machine learning and real-time “algorithmic management” fall within reach.

While the overall effect of technology adoption is likely to be positive boosts to productivity, creativity and job opportunities, concerns about the impact on both workers and the resilience of our regulatory framework are beginning to be heard. A report by EU-OSHA argued that new psychosocial and organisational hazards will need better definitions of liabilities and responsibilities, while IOSH has suggested that a code of ethics on the use of robots and artificial intelligence will be needed to ensure that work places remain people-centred.

Of course, mental health, stress and psychosocial risk at work will be a continuing  theme. Levels of reported stress, depression and anxiety have been tracking upwards for the past decade; the coming year, likely to be bring more uncertainty and continued “austerity”, is unlikely to buck the trend.

What could change, however, is organisations’ reactions and sense of responsibility. To date, the narrative around mental health has been that it is an individual issue, requiring responses targeted at individuals: from “yogurt and yoga” to telephone counselling to mental health first aid provision.

In 2019, the narrative is expected to broaden, with more awareness of the organisational and social factors that put so many of us at risk. “Responses need to be built into the fabric of the way you do business, it’s not just about buying a commercial product,” says psychologist  Dr Joanna Wilde, who sits on the HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee.

The coming year will bring interesting times and interesting debates. As the economy inches forward, working lives become longer and technology marches ahead, health and safety can expect to be at heart of them.


With Brexit likely to dominate in 2019, IOSH puts in a plea for more focus on the “bread and butter” issues of health and safety regulation. Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs, says: “We need better compliance with our current legislation through improved guidance, education and enforcement and sensibly plugging existing gaps, such as on occupational exposure limits and fire safety.

“We must also promote understanding that regulation is a social and economic good, helping organisations do the right thing, levelling the playing field and protecting vulnerable workers.”

But Brexit is, of course, inescapable, and Jones has a warning for legislators. “We need to guard against any erosion of occupational safety and health standards post-Brexit and ensure the UK continues to improve,” he adds.

The British Safety Council is also hoping – perhaps optimistically – that 2019 will bring stability rather than legislative upheaval.

Its chair, Lawrence Waterman, said: “In this time of uncertainty, and against a background of rapidly changing working arrangements driven by technology and new forms of employment … it is crucial to recognise the strength of our health and safety system and legal framework.”

“Sodium chlorate is not approved for use in weedkillers, as a safe level of use was not established for operators”

HSE inspector Sarah Dutton

However, the British Safety Council hopes to see some updates, including “ensuring that the legal protections afforded to many workers are extended and properly applied to those working in the ‘gig’ economy”.

Waterman also points to an issue that is gaining more attention: the impact on enforcement of the long lean years of “austerity”. “We wish to see an end to the long squeeze on local authority and HSE budgets. If you hollow out regulators’ ability to enforce the law, talking about legislative improvements is pointless.”

One open question is whether 2019 will bring renewed HSE enforcement on work-related stress and psychosocial risk: anecdotally, members of the regulator’s staff are said to view the possibility positively.

“The conversation is active and everywhere,” notes Dr Joanne Wilde, an organisational psychologist and member of the HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee. However, with other priorities claiming the HSE’s attention – did we mention Brexit? – few would actively back that horse.

Another issue to look out for is an earlier-than-planned post-implementation review (PIR) of the CDM Regulations 2015.

Read more here.