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    HSE FEE FOR INTERVENTION COMES UNDER ATTACK

    Government review urges HSE to reconsider Fee for Intervention

    The HSE Fee for Intervention (FFI) inspection charging regime has come under criticism in the Department for Work and Pensions Triennial Review report on the work of HSE.

    The review and report by Martin Temple, Chairman of the Engineering Employers Federation, has labelled FFI as a “dangerous model” which has potentially undermined the integrity of HSE. He calls for further consultation on continued operation of FFI.

    Report recommendations on FFI

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    The reports sets out a series of recommendations on FFI including a further review on the views of stakeholders. The primary objective of the review was to consider the continuing need for HSE’s function, however, the “wealth of comments” received from stakeholders regarding FFI compelled the author to address the issue.

    Martin Temple expressed concern at the strength of feeling from stakeholders that FFI has damaged the HSE’s reputation for acting impartially and independently, and therefore its integrity as a regulator.

    The specific recommendations are:

    “1.  The HSE planned review (of FFI) post October 2013 should include:

    • stakeholder representation in the review team to provide assurance of the impartiality of the findings;
    • the views of stakeholders on how FFI is working;
    • if FFI is to be retained, whether the threshold for FFI has been set at the right level;
    • whether there is evidence that the anticipated incentives to comply have made a difference and improved health and safety performance;
    • whether there have been any detrimental impacts on the behaviour of HSE Inspectors and/or those inspected and/or on health and safety performance; and
    • consideration of alternative sources of income, which should be tested against the same criteria.

    2.  Unless the link between “fines” and funding can be removed or the benefits can be shown to outweigh the detrimental effects, and it is not possible to minimise those effects, FFI should be phased out.

    3.  As an urgent action, there should be at least one independent person involved at the first formal stage in FFI appeals for HSE to ensure that the appeal process is independent and impartial, and is seen to be so.

    The Triennial review of the HSE is in line with normal government policy and has concluded that there is a continuing need for the functions that HSE delivers, and a very strong case for those functions to continue to be delivered by an arms-length body, adding:

    “on the whole, HSE is operating with the level of control and governance that should be expected of an arm’s length body of its size and profile.”

    Criticism supported by BSC and Regulator Union

    Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, responding to the report said:

    “The British Safety Council believes that in order for Great Britain to continue to be effective in preventing workplace injuries and work-related ill-health we need a properly resourced, expert and independent regulator. We welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the continuing need for HSE to help to achieve that goal. That view was overwhelmingly supported by our more than 6,000 corporate members.

    We note that Temple highlighted concerns over the recently introduced cost recovery scheme, ‘Fee for Intervention’ (FFI). Many of these concerns reflect the views of our members we submitted to the review so we welcome the recommendations concerning the planned review of FFI to be expanded to examine these issues.”

    Prospect Union also welcomed the findings. Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said:

    “We are delighted that the fourth review of the HSE in recent years once more confirms that the agency is fit for purpose and benefits workers and employers across the UK.

    We welcome author Martin Temple’s finding that the HSE’s functions should continue to be delivered by a non-departmental public body, allowing it to retain its independence and his praise for the professionalism and competence of staff.

    However, the review rightly raises concerns about the new ‘fee for intervention’ model, which links the regulator’s funding to its income from ‘fines’. FFI was rushed in to fill gaps in HSE’s budget caused by government cuts. Prospect warned that the proposals would be perceived as a business burden and risked damaging the regulatory balance.

    We have been proved right. We strongly back the review’s call to remove the link between funding and fines. It is the wrong solution to funding. HSE has lost experienced inspectors because of the cuts and difficulties caused by FFI.”

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