Small Businesses Will Suffer with New Health and Safety Fees
Concerns have been raised about a plan to charge businesses for breaches of Health and Safety Law. The initiative, Fees for Intervention (FFI), due to launch in April 2012, will go ahead despite an announced postponement by the Health and Safety Executive. The scheme has attracted much debate within the H&S industry over the concern that small businesses could suffer.
May 2012 - The FFI Scheme announced last year by the Health and Safety Executive aims to recover the costs associated with dealing with Health and Safety breaches by charging the businesses who break the law. These companies will be charged £124 an hour for the investigation and enforcement action by the HSE.
The scheme was a subject of a lively discussion at a recent North Staffordshire Occupational Health and Safety group meeting. The HSE presented its latest plans to the group and listened to concerns raised from the floor that the change may encourage businesses to avoid asking Health and Safety Executive Inspectors for help in a bid to avoid the charges with an adverse impact on safety in the workplace.
Attending the meeting, Russell Barnard from Cheshire-based SG World, a company dedicated to helping businesses to avoid HSE breaches, notes that,
“Smaller companies in industries like manufacturing stand to lose more under the new FFI initiative. In my experience, companies with a small workforce are not necessarily going to have an employee dedicated solely to Health & Safety. Even with the best will in the world they probably won’t be aware of every piece of legislation that exists”.
“Fees will be issued for interventions such as letters, emails, reports and enforcement notices. Should a HSE Inspector be accompanied by a specialist Inspector, because of the nature of the case, £124 will be payable for each member of staff.” Barnard explains.
“A material breach is easy to fall into, especially for a smaller business which might have multiple instances of non-compliance. The FFI is a set fee per hour, so the severity of the breach doesn’t affect the charge, apart from the length of time compliance will take, and therefore even multiple minor incidents may now prove very costly.”
Mr Barnard further added that the charges can be appealed, although if the appeal is lost the time the HSE spent disputing it will also be charged.
Gordon MacDonald, HSE's programme director, said, "The Government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right - and not the public purse”. Employers in compliance with health and safety law will not face any charges.
Steve Floodgate, Communications Director at SG World explains how these charges can be avoided:
“SG World supports any initiative that promotes health and safety in the workplace. We’re aware the move to charge fees for intervention is a controversial one, as firms will now have to pay more if they are found breaching health and safety law. This initiative just underscores the importance to ensure your business is already in compliance. There are a range of simple solutions to ensure that health and safety issues are covered in the workplace, with the cost of a breach now becoming more than just a penalty it’s only good sense to ensure your workplace is covered”.
SG World supply innovative products to help businesses look after people, premises and property. Their services include advising businesses on contractor, visitor and staff booking-in procedures, and their products include ID cards and lanyards, health and safety documentation systems and cutting-edge visitor management software. Formed in 1968, SG World operates from its base in Crewe, Cheshire, and employs 150 staff in Crewe, London and Ireland.