October 2015 marked the third anniversary of the HSE’s Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme. The scheme allows the HSE to recover costs from businesses that an HSE inspector has deemed to be in ‘material breach’ of health and safety legislation. Once a breach has been identified, the business will be charged £124 per hour while an inspector investigates and works to resolve the issue. To date, the HSE has issued 47,830 invoices under the scheme and recovered almost £30 million—with the average fee costing each business £770.
Regardless of whether you manage a chip shop or a national manufacturing firm, an HSE inspector may find an aspect of your operation to be in material breach. While the scheme provides no firm definition for a material breach—as each HSE inspector is able to form his or her own definition—it does provide several concrete examples:
- Inadequate machine guards
- Outdated or non-existent risk assessments
- Poorly defined travel routes either on a construction site, public road or within a building
- Not providing adequate facilities, such as no hot or cold water, for on-site workers
- Ineffective management procedures
After an invoice has been served, a business has 21 days to either challenge it or pay it. However, by paying the invoice, your business is admitting to the breach of health and safety, and the HSE could cite that as evidence in the future. Therefore, the most beneficial practice that your business can implement is a thorough risk management scheme that is reviewed at least annually and takes employees’ concerns into consideration.