Fee for Intervention

In 2012, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought in a new charging scheme called Fee for Intervention (FFI). Businesses found to be in ‘material breach’ of health and safety laws are now liable to pay for the cost of the HSE administering the breach.

What this means is that a business that has broken a health and safety law can now expect to receive an invoice from the HSE, calculated at £124 an hour. A ‘material breach’ is where the inspector judges that the breach is serious enough for them to notify you in writing. How much you get charged depends on the time the HSE takes to identify and conclude its regulatory action.

Between October 2012 and January 2014, HSE invoiced over £10 million in fees. The average cost of a single invoice was around £500.

Needless to say, it hasn’t been popular.

A Triennial Review Report – an independent review of the function, form and governance of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ­– found that the FFI was one of the biggest issues raised during its review of stakeholders.

Prior to FFI, there was no charge for an HSE inspection, but the Government believe that it is right that businesses that break health and safety laws should pay for HSE’s time in putting matters right and taking enforcement action, rather than the taxpayer. They also argue that FFI should help to encourage businesses to comply or to put failings right quickly, and discourage businesses who might otherwise undercut their competitors by cutting corners and putting people at risk.

Of course, the HSE argues that if you comply with the law you won’t pay a fee. If you don’t agree with the findings, or the cost of the invoice, you can appeal to the HSE who will consider the matter. However, should they find not in your favour you are then liable for the costs of the appeal.

But because the HSE is handling the appeal, stakeholders feel that it is not acting impartially or independently. This is one of the areas looked at by the independent review because of ” the impact it appears to be having on HSE’s reputation for independence and its integrity as a regulator.” Its advice was that the HSE should urgently appoint at least one independent person at the first formal stage in FFI appeals in order for the HSE to ensure that the appeal process is independent and impartial, and is seen to be so.

Two other major concerns flagged up in the report were:

  • That it was seen as a penalty or fine regime.
  • That it was seen as a way of the HSE filling its funding gap created by the reduction in Government funding, and therefore, inspectors are subject to an income target to achieve.

However, the HSE point out that the money recovered goes first to the Treasury, with a cap on how much can be returned to HSE. The HSE’s own monitoring during this initial phase of the operation of FFI has led them to conclude that decisions that give rise to FFI charges have been taken in line with HSE’s existing enforcement policy and operational procedures.

The review did find that the link between funding and “fines” inherent in FFI does damage the positive relationship between HSE and business, which has previously been the basis of improved health and safety performance.

The government plans to review the scheme after three years, in October this year. We will report back on any changes made then. In the meantime, it pays to make sure that to make sure directors and those responsible for health and safety within your company are appropriately trained and up-to-date on health and safety laws. Click here for details of our courses.

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