New safety fee to punish lawbreakers

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Law Health and safety executive

Firms that don't meet health and safety requirements will foot the bill
Firms that don't meet health and safety requirements will foot the bill
Firms that flout the law by failing to ensure their workplaces are safe for workers will be subject to additional costs from next month.

From October 1, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plans to impose a 'fee for intervention' (FFI) for cost recovery when it is required to intervene for health and safety reasons. These changes, which are expected to be approved by parliament when MPs return from the summer recess, place a duty on the HSE to recover its costs for carrying out its regulatory functions from those found to be in material breach of health and safety law.

A material breach is, when in the opinion of the HSE inspector, there has been a contravention of health and safety law that is serious enough to require them to notify the person in material breach of that opinion in writing.

Significant bills

As a result, any business caught flouting health and safety legislation could face significant bills from October, according to workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.

Lee Wright, marketing director of Slingsby, said: "This is a major shake-up of how the HSE operates. It will mean any businesses found to be in material breach of health and safety laws which means it's considered serious enough to issue written notification will have to cover the HSE's costs incurred in investigating and enforcing the legislation. These costs currently come out of the public purse."

The HSE and the government believe firms and organisations that break health and safety laws should pay for the HSE's time in putting matters right, investigating and taking enforcement action.

The proposed FFI hourly rate for 2012/13 is £124.

Thousands of pounds

"The cost of an investigation could escalate and even a relatively minor breach could hit thousands of pounds,"​ said Wright. "Plus there will be no upper limit to the fee payable, based on ability to pay."

The HSE believes the FFI will also encourage firms and organisations to comply in the first place or put matters right quickly when they don't. It will also discourage those who undercut their competitors by not complying with the law and putting people at risk.

Gordon MacDonald, the HSE's programme director, said: "Confirming the date for the start of FFI and publishing the guidance will give duty holders clarity and certainty about the start of the scheme and what they can expect.

"We have worked with industry representatives in shaping the final form of the scheme and the published guidance explains how the scheme will work and what businesses can do to comply with the law and avoid incurring a fee."

MacDonald added: "Those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right and not the public purse. Firms who manage workplace risks properly will not pay."

"The bottom line is that this will only hit those organisations that flout health and safety legislation,"​ said Wright. "Businesses that comply with the laws will not suffer so all organisations should use this as a prompt to ensure their current arrangements are up to scratch."

Related topics Hygiene, safety & cleaning

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