Over the years, regular and significant Government cuts to HSE funding had resulted in reduced staff numbers, the closure of the HSE free helpline and a reduction in proactive HSE inspections (focusing instead on higher risk and poor performing businesses). This was followed by the Government imposing a legal duty on the HSE to recover its costs from non-compliant businesses, resulting in the introduction of the Fee for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme on 1st October 2012.
The aim of the scheme was for the HSE to charge for their time, by the hour, for the costs of helping to put matters right, including time spent investigating and taking enforcement action in instances where companies had breached health and safety laws.
In the intervening period since the introduction of the FFI scheme the HSE has recorded a host of information on how the scheme is working including the amount of revenue generated per year.
These figures reveal that the manufacturing sector has been hit the hardest, generating 6 figure sums for the HSE each month. The monthly FFI invoice run is well over £2m with the average FFI invoice around the £700 mark. The figures reveal a constant increase in fines issued and revenue generated since the introduction of the scheme in 2012.
However, far from being a commercial “money-generating” scheme in fact, FFI has run at a loss since the very first year and even with the latest fee increase (to £129 per hour from the initial fee of £124 per hour) there will be insufficient income generated to cover the rising costs of administering the scheme.
When a fee is levied, it includes the costs incurred covering the time of the entire original visit. The total amount recovered will be based on the amount of time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help a company put things right (including associated office work), multiplied by the hourly rate.
According to published HSE guidance, the fee may include the inspector’s time:
- at your business or workplace
- preparing reports
- getting specialist advice
- talking to you after the visit
- talking to your workers
The fee can vary depending on:
- how long the original visit was
- the time the inspector spent helping you put things right
- the time it took the inspector to investigate your case
- any time the HSE spends on taking action against you
How much will you be charged?
From the 1st October 2012 if a HSE inspector identifies a ‘material breach’ on your premises, the duty holder (i.e. the company/person responsible for health and safety) will be charged £124 per hour (now £129 per hour) from the moment the inspector arrived on site to the point when the inspector is satisfied that the issue is resolved or prosecution is taken. The rates will be charged at 6 minute intervals. The officer will not be getting paid £129 per hour; that is the cost of the whole HSE ‘service’ to investigate the ‘material breach’. If the HSE need to obtain specialist advice, i.e. from a consultant, the whole cost of obtaining this advice will be passed on to the duty holder.
What is a ‘material breach?
This has been defined as a breach of any health and safety legislation that the inspector has to notify you of in writing. Any observed breach, unless is it is immediately dangerous, will have to go through a HSE back office system called the Enforcement Management Model (EMM).
This will look at a number of factors, including the severity of the risk in comparison to the risk if safe measures were taken. It will also look at overall compliance with any relevant standard. They will also take into account relevant incident history (i.e. has it happened before), history of enforcement action, whether the offence occurred due to the duty holder deliberately trying to seek financial advantage, the level of actual harm that has happened, the inspection history of the duty holder, and whether the inspector has confidence that you will comply.
Once this process has been undertaken, if it is found that the inspector needs to write to you/serve notice/proceed for prosecution, this will be considered a material breach.
When might you get an inspection?
Normally an inspection will follow either a complaint to the HSE regarding a particular issue or through an accident report. Not all accident reports are followed up as they are prioritised by the HSE.
It is an offence not to report certain accidents so if someone contacts HSE due to an injury that has not been reported (but should have been) this may be considered a material breach; so don’t be tempted not to report accidents in the usual manner.
Inspectors can also inspect premises at any time, and they may also undertake some proactive inspections where there has not been a complaint or accident.
What should you do if you get an inspection?
Cooperate fully with the inspectors as the sooner they are completed with the inspection the smaller the bill. The greater the confidence the inspector has in your willingness to do things the way they would like you to do them, and your overall control of health and safety on site, the better.
The inspector has legal powers to take documents and objects but make sure they give you a receipt. Be aware that what you say may have legal consequences, especially if they have cautioned you.