The following piece was sent to us as information to our Members.  Have you experienced similar interventions?  Please let us know of any comments or views you have by emailing info@ ide.org.uk using the title “When will Clarity Be Given” as your heading.

With the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) now operating a Fee for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme, which came into effect on 1 October 2012 – Under The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, those who break health and safety laws are liable for recovery of HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action. [1]

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the ‘second invoice run’ under FFI, which ran from 1 December 2012 to 31 January 2013, yielded the HSE around £857,000 in recovered costs.

The figure is around £100,000 higher than the first invoice run and included 1807 invoices – nearly 500 more than the total issued during the first period, which covered October and November 2012.

According to law firm DWF, which obtained the figures, the HSE carried out 3062 proactive inspections during the second period, indicating that around 60 per cent of inspections result in an invoice being issued. [2]

Due to the press releases and information supplied by the HSE we et al are of the understanding that a fee, penalty or fine would only be issued in the event that the HSE had intervened due to a material breach. This now appears not to be the case as it has come to light at a recent NFDC regional meeting, that on two separate occasions with two separate contractors (in the same region) the HSE have come to site, have not had to intervene health and safety wise and yet have still sent a letter and a fee to the perplexed contractor.

With the Health and Safety Executive now required to self fund and with the average value of the FFI invoice at £474[3] does this now mean that the HSE will simply start charging contractors if they visit a site so that they may support budgeted recovery targets?

Companies receiving these invoiced visits where there has been no material breach need to challenge the HSE and not just pay it to prevent angering the inspectors and face a steeper fine and incur court costs.

If we as an industry sit idly by and allow this to continue where will it end?

First they came for the asbestos strippers, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an asbestos stripper.  Then they came for the ground workers, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a ground worker.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

What then are we to do? Question the validity of the fee and if required go to court fight the good fight and potentially suffer the scorn and wrath of the inspectors?

Or do we pay our small fines and hope we are not targeted in the next quarter?

We believe that HSE inspectors are less than enamoured at having to issue punitive charges in this way as they know this will prejudice the rapport and good relationship built up with members over long periods of time.

What will be next? Will clients start to ask how many FFIs you’ve been issued with by HSE and will this appear as an additional question on PQQs?

Resources:

[1] Health and Safety Executive (http://www.hse.gov.uk/fee-for-intervention/index.htm)

[2] IOSH Safety and Health Practitioner (July 2013)

[3] IOSH Safety and Health Practitioner (July 2013)

Courtesy of Mr Stephen McCann, AMIDE

 

 Since publishing we have received the following feedback, do you have anything else to add?

I have read the recent alert with some horror!

IF a member or any contractor come to that is given an FFI invoice for anything other than a “material breach” as described within the HSEs own guidance notes it should be contested. There is nothing within the FFI regulations allowing for the issue of an FFI for anything other than a material breach.

The HSE guidance document can be found using the following link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse47.pdf

Howard Button, Chief Executive, For & on Behalf of NFDC Ltd