Health & Safety Executive Interventions Become Chargeable
Businesses under investigation for health and safety violations by the Health and Safety Executive will be charged £124 per hour under theFee for Intervention (FFI) schemefrom 1 October 2012.
The FFI Scheme aims to recover the costs associated with dealing with Health and Safety breaches by charging the businesses which break the law. These companies will be charged £124 an hour for the investigation and enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)according to the British Safety Council.
Businesses will be charged the fees if they have a “material breach,” a serious enough break in health and safety law that a health and safety inspector issues a written notification of the breach under the principles of theHSE’s Enforcement Policy Statement.
The fees will be calculated according to the amount of time the inspector has recorded as spent identifying a breach, investigating and enforcing action and helping the business to fix the issues. According to the HSE, the FFI scheme will encourage businesses and organisations to “comply in the first place or put matters right quickly when they don’t.”
However, this change may also result in smaller businesses avoiding asking Health and Safety Inspectors for help in a bid to avoid charges if they are found to have breached the law. According to Russell Barnard, Product Manager for SG World, smaller companies will shoulder a greater financial burden under the new scheme.
Barnard said: “Smaller companies in industries like manufacturing stand to lose more under the new FFI initiative. In my experience, companies with a small workforce are not necessarily going to have an employee dedicated solely to Health & Safety. Even with the best will in the world they probably won’t be aware of every piece of legislation that exists. They will run the same risk of an inspector calling as before; however, the costs of securing compliance after a breach are going to be a bigger percentage of profit and overall turnover compared to a larger business”.
The introduction of the FFI scheme comes as the Health and Safety Executive announced plans to cut back on proactive inspections on industries not considered “high risk” as part of a government red-tape cutting exercise. Industries such as construction and manufacturing will still face scheduled health and safety inspections which can uncover material breaches.
“A material breach is easy to fall into, especially for a smaller business which might have multiple instance of non-compliance,” Barnard said. “The FFI is a set fee per hour, so the severity of the breach doesn’t affect the charge, apart from the length of time compliance will take, and therefore even multiple minor incidents may now prove very costly.”
The charges can be appealed, although if the appeal is lost the time the HSE spent disputing it will also be charged.
Gordon MacDonald, HSE's programme director, said, "The Government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right - and not the public purse”. Employers in compliance with health and safety law will not face any charges.
Steve Floodgate, Communications Director at SG World explains how these charges can be avoided:
“SG World supports any initiative that promotes health and safety in the workplace. We’re aware the move to charge fees for intervention is a controversial one, as firms will now have to pay more if they are found breaching health and safety law. This initiative just underscores the importance to ensure your business is already in compliance. There are a range of simple solutions to ensure that health and safety issues are covered in the workplace; with the cost of a breach now becoming more than just a penalty it’s only good sense to ensure your workplace is covered.”