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HSE RAMPS UP RESPONSE TO SAFETY ‘TIP-OFFS’

Fee for intervention may have triggered change in HSE approach

Law firm Pinset Mason has reported the results a freedom of information (FOI) request which suggests a 43% increase in tip-off led inspections by HSE.

The FOI request revealed that HSE undertook 3,475 inspections based on tip-offs in the last year (year end March 31 2013) revealing a 43% increase on the 2,429 inspections undertaken in the previous 12 months.

HSE receives intelligence on possible material breaches from a number of sources including:

  • whistleblowing reports from employees or union representatives;
  • complaints by local residents;
  • customers and suppliers; and
  • insurance reports on workplace incidents.

Fee for intervention charges are now imposed where HSE inspections find a ‘material breach’ of regulations.

HSE now considerably more likely to act on tip-offs

Simon Joyston-Bechal, specialist Health & Safety lawyer and Partner at Pinsent Masons said:

“Businesses with unaddressed Health & Safety issues should not be surprised if an HSE inspector knocks on their door, after being tipped off by an employee or customer.

It’s also important to remember that the HSE can demand hefty fees for their time if they find breaches of Health & Safety regulations. Health & Safety can sometimes be seen as an easy area for cost-cutting when bottom lines are under pressure. HSE knows this, and is clearly becoming more proactive in rooting out any regulatory breaches as soon as it has evidence.

If HSE decides that cost-cutting was a primary reason for a breach of Health & Safety regulations, it is more likely to pursue prosecution of senior management and sentences are likely to be higher if a conviction is secured.

HSE’s new approach has made cost-cutting in Health & Safety even riskier than in the past. All directors and senior managers need to understand their obligations for Health & Safety and the proactive steps that the criminal law requires them to take to stay out of jail.”

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