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    HSE TO INTRODUCE ‘FEE FOR INTERVENTION’ IN OCTOBER 2012

    Investigations could result in high five figure invoices for errant businesses

    HSE has confirmed that a cost recovery scheme, known as Fee for Intervention (FFI), will start on 1 October 2012 subject to Parliamentary approval. FFI recovers costs from those who break health and safety laws.

    The government believe it is right that businesses and organisations in ‘material breach’ of health and safety laws should pay for the time HSE takes in putting matters right, investigating and taking enforcement action.

    Law-abiding businesses will not pay a fee

    Detailed provisional guidance has been published setting out how the scheme will work including examples of how FFI will be applied. A ‘test run’ of the scheme has been carried out in preparation for start in October 2012.

    Gordon MacDonald, HSE’s programme director, said:

    “Confirming the date for the start of Fee For Intervention and publishing the guidance will give dutyholders clarity and certainty about the start of the scheme and what they can expect.

    We have worked with industry representatives in shaping the final form of the scheme and the published guidance explains how the scheme will work and what businesses can do to comply with the law and avoid incurring a fee.

    It is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right – and not the public purse. Firms who manage workplace risks properly will not pay.”

    Comment

    FFI is a major change for HSE and all businesess involved with UK construction projects. Our immediate observations are:

    1. Cost: fees will be imposed for ‘material breach’ investigations or enforcement action even when the HSE decide to close an investigation and a prosecution is not proposed. The cost of such investigations may be significant with FFI fees reaching tens of thousands of pounds;
    2. Impact: there is no limit to FFI fees and some firms may be go out of business as a consequence. This contrasts with court prosecution costs which reflect the defendant’s ability to pay;
    3. Complexity: construction projects involve clients, designers, coordinators, contractors and suppliers where allocation of responsibility for a material breach may be highly complex;
    4. Avoidance: all organisations should use FFI as a spur to review current H&S arrangements. The examples given in the guidance provide a good starting point and checklist.
    5. Minimisation: businesses should understand the guidance and consider how costs might be minimised when material breaches are found by HSE.

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