HC Deb 12 July 1977 vol 935 cc212-3
10. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on discussions within the EEC about a directive on safety signs at work.

Mr. John Grant

As I told my hon. Friend the Member For Glasgow, Kelvin-grove (Mr. Carmichael) last Tuesday, agreement was reached at a meeting on 28th June of the EEC Council of Ministers (Social Affairs) on a directive dealing with the harmonisation of safety information, or safety signs, at work. It will apply to all industries apart from coal mining. Regulations will need to be made by 1st January 1979 to come into effect by 1st January 1981.

Mr. Evans

I am grateful for that reply. Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a limit to the efficiency of pictorial signs? Does he further accept that the safety of the work force is the most important feature and that there should be some use of words on the safety at work signs?

Mr. Grant

I share my hon. Friend's view, and I think that he will find that the signs, when they are fully implemented, make a considerable improvement to the health and safety of people throughout the country.

Mr. Marten

Is not the opposite true? Are not some of these signs quite dreadful? What is the cost to industry of the whole proposition? If a firm never employs any foreigners is it necessary for that firm to have the signs?

Mr. Grant

The question of the cost to industry was raised when we debated the matter. It is impossible to give a specific cost. Since the hon. Member referred to a matter that we have debated I must remind him that three aspects were raised. First, we achieved exemption for the coal milling industry. The second aspect was the controversial running man sign. We got that deleted. It is now optional. The third aspect was the implementation date. We got an extension from the Commission and then, when I proposed it to the Council of Ministers, we achieved a further extension of the date. The arrangements are now satisfactory.