Earlier this year, within these pages, we explained that the HSE would be introducing a policy of charging duty-holders for visits where they found a material breach of the law. It was later explained that the planned implementation in April, this year, had been abandoned.
We now have confirmation that the Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme is to go ahead. New Regulations will allow the scheme to commence on 1 October this year and the HSE has published detailed information and guidance to explain how the scheme will work.
The scheme, introduced at Government behest, is based on the principle that those employers who do not manage health and safety compliance in their business should pay the full cost of the HSE’s intervention. Employers who are actively managing and are not in material breach of the requirements will not be charged. Clearly Ministers and government believe that Fee for Intervention will create an incentive for businesses to take action and do the right things on their own account rather than waiting to be told that things are wrong by the Health and Safety Executive
In a recent speech Judith Hackett, Chair of the HSE said “we are very much in favour of making life as easy as we can for those who are doing or want to do the right thing. The former can essentially be left alone to get on with running their businesses; the latter are likely to be looking for help and advice on how to comply. But, we are equally committed to ensuring that those who choose to ignore or avoid their legal obligations are held to account. As we target our activities and our attention, there will be a reduced number of unannounced proactive inspections of workplaces where there is no obvious reason to have concern. Our reactive work in response to incidents and complaints received will not change at all. Reactive work – including taking enforcement action wherever it’s warranted – will continue unaffected, based on our well established incident selection criteria and complaints system.
Our proposals for Fee for Intervention underline our approach to differentiating between those who are committed to doing the right thing and those who seek to gain commercial advantage and expose their employees to unacceptable risks.
It is part of Government Policy for HSE to extend the scope of its cost recovery. The public purse should not be expected to foot the bill for firms who fail to meet their health and safety obligations. The majority of businesses, those who already do the right things in terms of health and safety have no need to worry about this scheme. They will not have to pay. The costs for the time and effort HSE spends on helping to put matters right through investigations and enforcement action will only be recovered from those who are found to be in serious breach of health and safety laws.”
The information published on this scheme states that a charge will be levied in every case where an inspector finds a breach of legislation that they consider to be material. It goes on to explain that in making this judgement the inspector will take into account issues such as the nature of the hazard, the risk of injury, the nature of the injury that might occur, the availability of information and guidance on how to achieve compliance and the employer’s attitude to health and safety and their history of compliance. All of these issues form part of a standard transparent decision making process.
Where the decision is that formal action is required, the duty-holder will be informed in writing, and will be charged at the rate of £124 per hour for the whole time of the visit, for the associated administrative time and any subsequent follow-up action. Should the inspector need to involve specialist colleagues or call for scientific testing and analysis that will also be charged for.
Peninsula clients who are actively using their health and safety management system to assess and control business safety risks, and have taken action on the advice given by our health and safety consultancy team should have little to fear from the new regime.
Remember though that health and safety does not manage itself; for directors and managers this means taking responsibility and leading from the top to ensure that you understand what are the real risks in your business, and committing resources to addressing those risks, and not the trivial, less important stuff. The actions you take should be proportionate to the risks faced and there should be a shift in mindset towards one that finds smart solutions. You must be active in its management. You can delegate responsibility; but delegating responsibility does not absolve you of responsibility. You must routinely check that subordinates with delegated responsibility are in fact meeting those responsibilities and taking action where they come short of the mark.
There are clear benefits to be obtained from the effective management of health and safety; which include:
• reduced costs;
• reduced physical and financial risks;
• lower employee absence and turnover rates;
• fewer accidents;
• improved standing among suppliers and partners;
• better reputation among investors, customers and communities.
Should you need any further information and advice do not hesitate to call the Peninsula Business Safety Consultant who last visited you or our 24 hour Advice Service on 0844892 2772 (option 2).