An independent panel recently convened to review the HSE’s ‘fee for intervention’ (FFI) scheme. The scheme basically allows the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to claim back the cost of inspections and enforcement action from businesses it finds to be in “material breach” of the law.
The FFI cost recovery scheme came into effect on 1 October 2012 under the principle that the offender should pay, a principle that both the HSE and the Government feel is right and also that public acceptance is also growing for it.
Independent Experts commissioned by the government to review the work of HSE, said in January that the scheme could have a “detrimental impact” on the public’s perception of the agency’s integrity. They concluded that, unless the link between fines and funding apparent in the scheme could be removed, FFI should be scrapped entirely. However the new HSE review, chaired by Liverpool University professor of public policy Alan Harding and featuring participants from the GMB trade union, government and Federation of Small Businesses, said that on the evidence these concerns had been unfounded. Although the scheme had not been popular, it had been “embedded effectively and applied consistently”, while “generally, inspectors and duty holders continue to work together in improving health and safety management”. It also found no evidence that the introduction of the scheme had in any way influenced HSE’s enforcement policy.
The report does however urge the HSE to ensure that the scheme does not later become subject to revenue targets”. It is critically important that the revenue raised by FFI is seen in terms of its effectiveness in shifting the cost burden of health and safety regulation to offending businesses and does not become subject to a revenue target system in future,” the report said. “We urge HSE to ensure that future revenue-raising from FFI does not play any role in future decisions about the size of the inspectorate and the way in which their work is targeted.”
According to the report, companies paid almost £10.7 million in fees for intervention between the introduction of the scheme in October 2012 and January 2014. Of this total, around £4.2m was paid by manufacturers and £2.8m by construction firms.
The report issued 09 Sep 2014 concludes that, whilst it acknowledges that FFI has not been popular with some inspectors and duty holders, there is no “viable alternative” which could meet the policy’s aim of shifting the cost of regulating workplace health and safety from the taxpayer to those who break the law and so it looks like it is here to stay.
“That said, the need to stave off the perception – or reality – of the scheme becoming a ‘cash cow’ for HSE is highlighted in the panel’s report and it will be interesting to see how that pans out in practice over the next couple of years,” the report states.