The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 introduced HSE’s Fee For Intervention (FFI) scheme which came into force last October. The regulations place a duty on the HSE to recover its costs of inspections, investigations and enforcement from those judged to be breaking health and safety laws.
The scheme affects not only those organisations being prosecuted for breaches of health and safety law. A “material breach” of the law, in the opinion of the HSE Inspector and triggering a notice in writing of this opinion, will be sufficient to trigger the scheme. It includes incidents brought to the attention of HSE by other relevant agencies, such as VOSA or the Police. A material breach is one significant enough to require a written notice and determined to be so in accordance with HSE’s Enforcement Management Model (EMM).
So the Fee For Intervention can be triggered as follows;
Early reports indicated that HSE had invoiced nearly £1.6m fees in the first four months of the scheme, meaning cost recovery had been sought for some 12,500 hours of work at the chargeable rate of £124/ hour. The majority of these invoices were reported to be for relatively modest sums of money (less than £500 per invoice) but uncertainty prevailed over how much organisations would be charged until the invoice was received.
It would be fair to say the changes were met with some degree of cynicism by industry, which has looked to HSE for consistency of application and assurance the scheme is not intended simply as a money-making exercise. There were also wider concerns. What would be the effect of the scheme on the relationship between industry and regulator? Could a reduction in trust have an impact on overall standards of health and safety? I welcome your views on how this has played out for you.
Organisations considering the effects of FFI will by now have had opportunity to implement changes to their policy in response to the change. It remains important to have adequate health and safety management procedures and practices in place, including staff training relevant to the context of your place in the chemical industry. It’s important to study the EMM and HSE guidance materials. In using EMM to determine response to a material breach, HSE will look at your track record of health and safety compliance (under the scope of Dutyholder Factors). You will know your track record on health and safety, compliance and chemical training and be in a good position to assess how you stand. But what will the inspector’s view be? Would the view of a third party assessor help you take a fresh look at your health and safety practices, chemical safety and emergency planning?
Whatever your view on FFI it looks to be here to stay.