health and safety ladderA freedom of information request made by business law firm DWF has revealed that the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) fees for intervention scheme (FFI) yielded around £857,000 for the Government’s coffers in the second invoice run, which ran from 1 December 2012 to 31 January 2013, with 60 per cent of inspections resulting in a charge to businesses.

Under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, which came into effect in October 2012, those who are found not to be compliant with health and safety laws are liable for recovery of HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action. The total figure of invoices is around £100,000 higher than the first invoice run in October and November 2012, and included over 1,800 invoices – nearly 500 more than those issued during the first period.

There was a significant increase in FFI time recorded against manufacturing businesses which accounted for 43 per cent of the total, followed by the construction sector which received nearly 30 per cent of the total number of invoices. Despite the waste management sector being high on the HSE priority list, given the sector’s high fatality rate, only 63 invoices were issued against businesses in the water and waste management sector, which could demonstrate either a high level of compliance in the sector or a low inspection rate.

Steffan Groch, head of regulatory at DWF, said: “The number of invoices is increasing at an alarming rate and it is now more likely than ever before that business owners will receive an HSE inspection that results in an invoice for the HSE’s time.

“It is good to see that the average value of invoice remains relatively low at £474, which is equal to just under four hours. However, we are aware that there have been 89 queries raised in relation to the invoices issued where the recipient was unhappy with either the cost or the reason for being charged. Of these queries, HSE conceded and amended 26 of them in the recipients’ favour. This figure is encouraging as it was feared that businesses would not challenge the invoices to avoid rocking the boat and attracting further unwanted attention from HSE.

“There is still a worry though that queries are not being dealt with independently. The HSE handles its invoices directly, which some might say is like parking wardens dealing with queries on the tickets they have issued. We encourage the HSE to review its appeal process to ensure they are dealt with in a fair and transparent manner.”

DWF is monitoring the progress of FFI and will continue to report on trends.