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Health and Safety: Avoid Expensive Fees for Intervention

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The primary legislation regulating health and safety issues in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc Law 1974. It applies to employers and self-employed persons and breaches can be costly in several ways.

The Act seeks to ensure that employers, employees and the general public are protected from dangers in the workplace by imposing obligations on employers to provide a safe environment.

Fees for Intervention (FFI) are an hourly cost penalty that the HSE can impose on employers when it carries out inspections related to health and safety breaches.

Many employers have not even heard of FFI, introduced in 2012, but they should take note and be aware that fees can add up very quickly.

How is the Fee for Intervention (FFI) Applied?

Employers are generally required to conduct risk assessments in their work environments and put measures in place to mitigate and control health and safety risks. In the event of a breach, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for inspecting or investigating incidents and enforcing the provisions of the Act.

FFI were introduced under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 to act as a cost recovery scheme. The HSE is empowered to levy charges of £124 p/h on companies for carrying out site inspections and visits where there has been a ‘material’ breach of health and safety law. The underlying aim is to help the HSE recoup some of the costs involved in carrying out its investigative role. Charges can be levied even if there is no enforcement action taken.

The implication of FFI is that businesses that do not have appropriate health and safety measures in place are likely to suffer costs for every visit where a material breach is discovered. The hourly charge of £124 is payable by the defaulting company for the duration of the investigation, from the time HSE commences until the time HSE concludes its reporting.

The HSE charged companies hundreds of thousands of pounds in 2012 and the figures are only likely to increase in future.

Rationale Behind Fees For Intervention

The rationale behind the FFI is that employers should be made to bear the cost of breaching the law rather than the taxpayer, as was the case prior to the legislation.

It also serves as a deterrent to likely defaulters although, according to the Department of Work and Pensions, the fee is not punitive in nature as it only reflects the cost of the HSE’s work in performing its duties. Moreover, it only covers material breaches as minor and technical breaches are excluded.

Comment

In spite of the policy rationale behind FFI, affected businesses view FFI as another form of tax having been unaware of the cost risks they faced. Surveys indicate that businesses were not prepared for the FFI scheme and in many cases were totally unaware of FFI prior to visits by HSE.

It is advisable that key staff at operational sites are fully informed and trained on the likely costs of non-compliance with health and safety law, including FFI. Companies operating at multiple locations should ensure that operational reporting of health and safety risks is centralised to avoid multiple inspections by the HSE. For specialist advice contact Peter Gourri today by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk  or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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