Managing health and safety legislation across international sites: tackling the challenges

March 15, 2024

Keeping on top of legislation in the UK is already a laborious task, but when you also manage multiple international sites, it becomes significantly more challenging.

This post dissects our webinar on Managing Health & Safety Regulations Across International Sites which saw Kate Field, Global Head of Health, Safety & Well-Being at BSI, explore this complex responsibility.

It also offers advice on how to navigate constantly changing regulatory landscapes in different countries.

📺 You can watch this webinar on demand here.

What auditors look for

Auditors look for what processes have been established or implemented in relation to:

•   Having access to up-to-date legal requirements and other relevant requirements

•   Methods of establishing how legal requirements and other requirements apply to the organisations

•   What has the client maintained and retained as documented information, such as:

—   Legal register or library

—   Online platform

—   Occupational Health

—   Statutory records

—   Training records

 

Problems that can occur with compliance include:

•   Other requirements are quite often missed

•   Approaches used tend to be overly complicated

•   It is challenging to find evidence of what has been considered, deemed not applicable and why

•   Evaluation of compliance tends to be a one-stop shop as part of the internal audits

•   Knowledge and understanding of compliance status tends to only be with the “specialists” rather than with those responsible for the operating areas

•   There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are areas of best practice.

Compliance tips for international sites

In our webinar, Kate provided several insights into the task of compliance with international sites. These included:

•   It is not one size fits all

•   You should be aiming for a ‘Goldilocks’ solution for your organisation, which involves tailored controls suiting organisational needs and risk and how this will work day-to-day at your organisation, not just at audit

•   Look at compliance, not just information – how it is embedded, operational knowledge and evidence

•   It is a team sport!

Colleagues from across the world on a video call discussing informationKate advocated for using international standards, such as ISO 45001 for safety or 14001 for environment, as a consolidation mechanism. As globally recognised frameworks, these standards outline consistent processes for navigating health, safety, and environmental systems.

Certification in international guidelines does not guarantee blanket legislative compliance, but BSI data indicates that over 75% of certified clients find applying ISO standards significantly strengthens conformity, given their focus on continually identifying and integrating relevant requirements.

Why identifying international legislation relevant to your site can be difficult

Operating internationally is a significant and complex process as regulatory landscapes in each country are continually changing. Businesses operating across several locations can often struggle to:

•   Stay on top of ever-changing legislation

•   Understand the legal requirements for each country

•   Compare laws in different countries

•   Create and maintain legal registers

•   Be an expert in that country’s legislation, without having a consultant in that country

 

Requirements can stem from additional sources alongside country-specific legislation, including:

•   Regional directives, specific country-level statutes, and state-based amendments

•   Contracts with health and safety service providers or contractors

•   Import/export regulations on machinery, chemicals, or hazardous materials

•   Protection for staff travelling internationally against legal risks overseas

 

Alongside the difficulties with complex regulatory systems, and keeping on top of updates, different jurisdictions can hold different views on whether non-compliance results in civil or criminal proceedings, which can have a significant impact on potential punishments. Enforcement regimes can vary significantly, and local input is required to ensure compliance.

All this knowledge is difficult enough to source initially, and close monitoring is required to keep this information and expertise up to date. This can be difficult when you have multiple sites in multiple countries, and in countries where these documents may not be available in English, so translation services are required.

How does the Barbour International service help you with managing compliance across international sites?

The Barbour Comprehensive International Module will support you and your organisation with its health, safety and environmental responsibilities. We have done the hard work to help you to:

 Quickly understand your environment, health and safety responsibilities for a variety of countries

 Keep up to date with existing and upcoming legislation and guidance

 Create and maintain your legal registers with alerts when anything changes

 

Our International Module supports you with:

•   Country guides: your ultimate resource for understanding health, safety and environment within each country.

•   Topic guidance: we provide granular and detailed guidance on your areas of responsibility, helping you to instantly see how the law stands in each country.

•   Upcoming legislation and consultation diary: easily see which consultations are currently in place and what legislation is on the horizon.

•   Easy-to-use legal register facility: bookmark your key pieces of legislation to build your own compliance register. We send you email alerts when anything changes.

•   Weekly international briefings: a round-up of prosecutions, news, guidance, reports, legislation, and consultations to keep you informed on important EHS for a country.

•   Original legislation and guidance documents: our searchable library contains legislation and guidance as originally published, and information is categorised by topic.

 

Our country guides include:

•   Relevant types of law

•   Compliance

•   Enforcement

•   Inspection

•   Key organisations

Alongside our International module, we also have a comprehensive eLearning service. Our courses can be translated into any language, helping to ensure standardised and consistent training for all learners in your organisation — wherever they are in the world.

Why not take a look and see how our International service can support you?

We’d love to show you around! Simply fill out this form and we’ll be in touch to organise a 30-minute high-level overview of these services.

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