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    QUICK GUIDE TO HEALTH AND SAFETY REFORM PROGRAMME

    HSE timetable for inspection charging arrangements now made clear

    In June 2010 the Prime Minister appointed the Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham as Adviser to the Prime Minister on health and safety law and practice.

    For those who may have lost track of developments since this appointment – the subsequent reports, recommendations and updates are now convieniently summarised on the DWP website. One key aspect (see below) of the reform not mentioned in the updates concerns “cost recovery for breaches of the law”.

    We can now report that HSE will conducting a consultation during July 2011 on how the charging regime will operate with implementation planned from April 2012.

    Cost of dealing with “serious material breaches” to be recovered

    “The government believes that it is reasonable that businesses that are found to be in serious breach of health and safety law – rather than the taxpayer – should bear the related costs incurred by the regulator in helping them put things right. A cost recovery principle will provide a deterrent to those who would otherwise fail to meet their obligations and a level playing field for those who do.

    It is proposed that HSE will recover all of the costs of an inspection/investigation at which a serious, material breach in standards is diagnosed and a requirement to rectify is formally made, together with the cost of any follow-up work.

    Businesses that are in compliance with the law will not be liable for any kind of charge as a result of an HSE inspection and there will be no recovery in relation to purely technical breaches. An appeal system will be operated by HSE in relation to any disputes over cost recovery.” Ref: Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone March 2011

    Comment

    Inspection and investigation cost recovery may be seen as simply an extension of the current regulator practice of securing full costs following legal proceedings. However, the ‘gateway’ for cost recovery, short of legal proceedings, may be less straightforward.

    The consultation will need to consider, inter alia: what is a ‘serious material breach’; what is a ‘formal requirement to rectify’ – does this include a letter; what impact will the policy have on Inspector propensity to take formal action; how much time will be taken up by appeals; what impact will the policy have on standards of safety and how will it affect relations between the regulator and the regulated?

    The forthcoming consultation will provide a opportunity to consider these and other issues.

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