The Health and Safety Executive have increased their Fee for Intervention (FFI) costs by 4%, which is above the current inflation rate.
The new costs, which came into force on 1st April 2016, increase the previous £124 per hour costs to £129 per hour and come at a time when many businesses are finding it difficult to raise their prices as other business costs continue to rise.
Although the FFI scheme has been highly unpopular within industry, the HSE will argue that FFI has been effective in achieving the overarching policy aim of shifting cost of health and safety regulation from the public purse to those businesses that do not conform to health and safety laws.
This comes at a time when the HSE have to make significant savings over the coming years. The recently published Business Plan for the HSE shows that its funding from central government will be over £100m less in 2019/2020 than it was in 2009/2010 (this is a 46% reduction compared with 2009/2010).
The HSE can raise FFI charges against a company when a ‘Material Breach’ has been identified following an incident, accident or following a compliance visit to the company.
What is a Material Breach?
A material breach is when, in the HSE inspector’s opinion, there is or has been a contravention of health and safety law that requires them to issue a notice in writing of that opinion to the duty holder.
The main problem with this is that a Material Breach is a relatively low threshold and it is very rare that a full inspection or audit is undertaken without identifying a material breach within most companies. Many new HSE inspectors are Law Graduates who will have a much higher understanding of Health & Safety Legislation than a person running a business.
From recent experience, it does appear that visiting enforcement officers go out of their way to identify a material breach, which then allows them to raise FFI charges against the company. This is often during routine visits where no accident or injury has been caused. Prior to the introduction of FFI in 2012, many of these areas would have resulted in verbal advice and guidance being given, but this is no longer the case.
How can you protect yourself and your company?
By having access to regular, competent health and safety advice you will be in a better position to protect yourself and your company from potential FFI or other enforcement action, including prosecutions.
For more information on FFI and to learn more about our Health & Safety services please call us on 01302 341 344.