Devolved regulations not always helpful
23 January 2013
The devolution of the component states within the UK may be a laudable political ambition but if national requirements are devolved so that each country can establish its own version of safety and environment regulations it often results in, at the least, confusion and, at the worst, significant costs on industry.
There is little doubt that the oil storage regulations are a good thing. Indeed, many would argue that they should be more robust and the scope expanded to cover other chemical hazards. These latter are, currently, only the subject of general safety regulations which are enforced indifferently or REACH, which, as yet, does not even appear to be the subject of any enforcement activity at all.
The fact is that the Scottish version of the oil storage regulations are more specific in respect of "waste" oil and cover both internal and external storage whereas the English version omits these two important aspects. Add to this the fact that a Northern Irish version is being drafted with a clear motivation to be seen to be "different" and even more "robust". There is also an expectation that Wales will be similarly motivated to create yet a fourth set of regulations.
This will create significant confusion where industrial companies operate throughout the UK. It will also, potentially, generate increased costs on businesses.
Oil companies and suppliers of products and services to assist speedy resolutions of emergency leaks and spills now need to operate in different ways depending on where they are.
The BSIF has no specific views on the benefits or otherwise of devolution but it does urge the law-makers to insist that regulations to improve the safety of people or the environment are consistent across the UK, are enforced in the same way and carry similar penalties.