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Avoiding the pitfalls of the HSE’s Fee for Intervention regime

At a glance

  • Smaller businesses are likely to be affected most, as health and safety can be a particular burden for them
  • Higher risk sectors, such as construction, are coming under the most scrutiny from HSE inspectors
  • Zurich can help firms avoid fines by managing their risks more effectively

Firms failing to meet their health and safety obligations are increasingly likely to face penalties under the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) recently introduced cost recovery regime.

Data from HSE shows the fines imposed on business under its Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme have more than doubled over the past year. Around £1.75 million was issued in fines during March 2014.

Health and safety law states that organisations must: 

  • Assess risks to employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected by their activities
  • Arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures
  • Have a written health and safety policy if they employ five or more people
  • Ensure they have access to competent health and safety advice
  • Consult employees about their risks at work as well as current preventive and protective measures

The Fee for Intervention regime, which was introduced in 2012, allows the HSE to charge firms for the time its inspectors take to identify any material breaches in health and safety regulations, all at a cost of £124 per hour.

John McMullen, Chief Engineer at Zurich Engineering, believes the costs of FFI to business will continue to rise – hurting smaller firms the most.

“Firms have seen a significant rise in FFI charges and we believe this trend is only likely to increase, making it all the more important for business owners to ensure they have the correct health and safety procedures in place,” said John.

The FFI regime is currently under review, with the HSE due to report its findings in July, but this uncertainty – with recommendations on the table to scrap the scheme, which has proved controversial – should also not be an excuse to ease up on health and safety standards.

Burden for smaller businesses

Health and safety responsibilities are a burden for small businesses, but by following a few simple steps – such as a proactive assessment and management of health and safety risks, a written health and safety policy and getting expert advice and support – they can help avoid costly fees and fines in the future.

Typical breaches of health and safety regulations include:

  • Inadequate guards on machines
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Dangerous work at height
  • Poor control of hazardous substances

Firms failing to adhere to health and safety regulations face dire consequences, as they put the lives and wellbeing of their employees at risk. And John believes those sectors deemed to carry higher risk, such as construction, are coming under the most scrutiny from HSE inspectors.

“Failure to comply with health and safety requirements can have serious consequences,” added John. “Sanctions include fines, imprisonment and disqualification.”

Failure to comply with health and safety requirements can have serious consequences – for both organisations and individuals. Sanctions include fines, imprisonment and disqualification

John McMullen, Chief Engineer at Zurich Engineering

Zurich has developed its online Plant Guide to help firms identify the type of equipment that requires inspection by a competent person, such as Zurich Engineers, under health and safety regulations. It allows users to cross-reference all plant equipment, statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as the required frequency of inspections.

In addition to this, Zurich’s online reporting tool, Crimson, can also help firms avoid fines by managing risks more effectively. It can be used to create exception reports to highlight plant with serious defects and help SMEs mobilise resources where defect trends present a risk to workplace safety.

Image © Getty

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