The Health and Safety Executive have increased their highly unpopular Fee for Intervention (FFI) costs by a staggering 4%, way above the current inflation rate (the consumer price index rose by 0.3% in February).
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 break health and safety laws.
This comes at a time when the HSE are having 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 (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 inspectors 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 problem we have personally come across is that a Material Breach is a relatively low threshold and being experienced in undertaking company safety inspections and auditing, it is very rare that a full inspection or audit is undertaken without identifying a material breach within most companies.
From experience with some of our clients, 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, and 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 advise and guidance being given, but this is no longer the case.
What can you do to protect yourself and your company from FFI enforcement?
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.
At Risk Safety Consultants, we provide companies that do not have the internal competence for health and safety management with a retained health and safety service. We have a number of standard affordable packages based on company size (number of employees) but can also bespoke a package to your individual needs. Many of our larger clients that require a more in-depth level of support often opt for our hourly rate job book package, where we work at agreed hourly rates on a fully flexible agreement.
One of the main benefits of our services is that we do not place our clients under long-term binding contracts, which many companies in our industry do, expecting you to sign-up to agreement of between 3 and 5 years. We prefer to give you full flexibility and work on the assumption that if we provide the right service to your company, you will remain with us as a regular client. Many of our retained clients have been with our company for a number of years, on a rolling one-month notice agreement.