In Context of Brexit, UK Issues Product Safety Strategy

You are here

August 27, 2018Kirsten WallerstedtBlog

In the context of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s new Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has published a strategy paper called "Strengthening National Capacity for Product Safety." The strategy covers the objectives that the OPSS plans to take action on from 2018-2020, including reformed regulations and strengthened enforcement.

The OPSS was launched in January 2018. The goal of the office is in part to build national capacity for product safety regulation. The office's objectives include: policy, scientific and risk analysis, testing, monitoring/evaluation, incident management and enforcement, and information for business and consumers.

Strategy paper
To execute on these objectives, the office's strategy paper sets out a number of key actions, which include:

  • Review existing regulations, standards, and guidance, and adapt where needed (see section below);
  • Establish the first national "Strategic Assessment" to prioritize actions needed to achieve the office’s goals;
  • Publish a "Strategic Research Programme" to set priorities for research investment;
  • Take a number of enforcement-strengthening actions;
  • Develop peer review to support local authorities to produce and validate risk assessments;
  • Strengthen collaboration with stakeholder groups and consumer bodies; and
  • Establish a "Trading Standards Co-ordination Unit" to lead engagement with local authorities;
  • Among other actions.

Regulations and product risks

The strategy also sets out actions related to specific regulations and product risks, including:

  • Carry out post implementation reviews of the Toy Safety Directive and Cosmetics Regulation;
  • Review the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR);
  • Move EU product safety directives into UK law;
  • Review product safety guidance on GOV.UK and produce new guidance to address any identified issues;
  • Review evidence where existing standards are insufficient;
  • Develop new digital systems to share data and information about product risks and to handle rapid alert notifications; and
  • Map external test house capability, and identify any gaps, to inform development of safety and standards in-house test capability;
  • Among other actions.

Regulatory framework
In the UK, product safety is primarily governed by legislation and regulations set at the UK level. The British Standards Institution (BSI) may publish standards which can help guide product design to be conformant to the legislation. Local authorities in the UK play a large role in ensuring compliance.

Product safety agencies
In addition to the OPSS, the Health and Safety Executive oversees the safety of workplace equipment, the Food Standards Agency governs food safety, the Department for Transport regulates motor vehicle safety, and the Department of Health oversees the safety of medicines and medical devices.

Brexit negotiations
In the context of the pending British exit from the EU (commonly called "Brexit"), the UK is actively pursuing an agreement on a UK-EU free trade area for goods, which is proposed to be supported by a common "rulebook" to include a single set of standards. For more information on the current state of Brexit negotiations, please see the Verisk 3E blog "EU Prepares for "No Deal" Scenario with Brexit."

Going forward
The UK strategy paper states that the OPSS will produce the first full strategic assessment of the product safety landscape by the end of March 2019. Developments will include the review of current regulations and standards, the facilitation of rapid response, improved product recalls, updated enforcement including at borders, and the prioritization of products for regulatory focus.