Did you realise that the FFI legislation has been in place for 12 months? Time has flown by and for many businesses that have had an inspector visit, this invariably meant that a bill from the HSE has followed.
Evidence suggests that the number of invoices raised has risen each quarter and that very few businesses seem to escape without an unwanted bill. In fact in a recent survey the feeling from businesses is that the HSE has become quick to identify material breaches (where a charge can be applied) and much less likely to provide general advice.
So is your business ready if an inspector calls? It appears that for many, the change in legislation has passed them by and the first they know of FFI is when the HSE visit. This leads to a situation where being ill prepared substantially increases the risk of the inspector identifying areas of non- compliance.
So what can you do? We suggest that having a professional third party take a look is an excellent starting point; as we know how easy it is for a business to think it is doing the right things, when it’s not. However just as important is having people trained in health & safety within the business that can escort an inspector around and answer their questions in a professional assured manner. Giving the inspector confidence that health & safety is well managed and that problems noted will be quickly addressed, can impact on the decision to issue a FFI charge.
So far the average charge issued amounts to just under £500 and although businesses have the right to appeal; most believe the hassle is not worth the effort so they pay up. We recognise this can be the easy option but a word of caution is that in the eyes of the law this can be construed as an acceptance of guilt; which would make any future prosecution more difficult to defend.
The regulations in principle are aimed at making businesses that are found not to be looking after their health & safety pay; however the jury is still out on whether it’s being applied as first intended. The aim to catch bad businesses and the good businesses should not be concerned appears to have been lost in this first 12 months. Let’s see where it goes in the future.