It’s essential to know how workplace legislation applies to your business and health and safety is quite naturally an area that should be treated with a great deal of importance.
Until recently, not only would the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecute businesses that were clearly breaching health and safety legislation, they would also take a pro-active approach in helping businesses overcome issues and meet legislation. However, such interaction often proved time consuming and therefore costly and free onsite assistance is therefore no longer available.
The HSE Fee for Intervention (FFI) implemented in October 2012, sounds rather daunting, but after recognising the importance of working with and supporting businesses, HSE is urging everyone to make themselves familiar with the new legislation.
The HSE website offers simple, practical guidance to help businesses understand how the cost recovery scheme works. If you are breaking a health and safety law, HSE can now recover its costs for the time and effort it spends helping you to put the matter right. [little box] Before FFI was introduced the cost of investigations and enforcement actions were met by the public purse. Now, this fee, charged at £124 per hour, will be met by the businesses found to be in breach of the law.
These fees only apply if a business has been found to be in material breach of health and safety law and when an HSE inspector has issued a notice in writing of that breach. Anyone who is compliant with the law, or where a breach is not material, will not be charged FFI for any work that HSE does with them.
The subject of disputing the fee is also covered on the website under Regulation 25. Full guidance notes can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/fee-for-intervention/index.htm
It’s hoped the introduction of FFI will not only encourage businesses to comply with health and safety laws in the first place, but that it will also discourage businesses which think they can undercut competitors by not complying with the law.
It should be remembered that the Health and Safety Executive prefer not to have to prosecute businesses. They stress that the intervention fees are merely to cover costs of any investigations and have not been introduced to generate an income to generally support the department.
The HSE web site still provides a wide range of advice and guidance for businesses, and any company would be well advised to use the Health and Safety Toolbox [http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/index.htm] to help them control risks at work. If further advice is required, contact a specialist health and safety consultant.