News

Firms to pay hundreds for HSE inspection

8 April 2011

Construction firms could face charges of hundreds of pounds an hour for inspection when safety failures are found, Building reported.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to consult on whether firms should be charged up to £200 an hour for an Inspector’s time if they breach safety rules.

The “fee for fault” proposals will be go out to the industry for consultation in the summer.

Mike MacDonald, an HSE inspectors’ representative at union Prospect, said: “The HSE is planning to transfer a big slug of the costs to business. Inspectors expect the rate for construction firms could be £150-200 an hour.”

Firms in the chemical and offshore industries are charged up to £256 an hour for inspectors’ time when safety failures are found but construction firms only pay the costs of HSE inspectors’ time in the event of a successful HSE prosecution. Under the new proposals construction firms will be charged whenever an enforcement notice is issued.

The proposals come after Chris Grayling, the employment minister, announced that the HSE will need to recover more of its costs from “rogue employers”.

But fears have been raised that HSE inspectors could have a conflict of interest when inspecting for safety failures as the HSE is under pressure to meet budget cuts of 35%. Macdonald said: “Businesses will be wary of inspectors under pressure to justify their jobs.”

However, a senior HSE source denied this would be the case. “There’s no sense that their behaviour is motivated by money- rather the opposite. They tend to give the benefit of the doubt.”

In a separate story Construction Enquirer reported that three demolition workers narrowly avoided death by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court heard that three men were overcome by dizziness and nausea. Health and Safety Executive tests revealed the gas boiler used for the shower showed was pumping out high levels of carbon monoxide.

Inspector David Stewart, who investigated the case for the HSE, said: “Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer in the home and, as this case demonstrates, also in the workplace.”

Construction Enquirer also reported that a man has been arrested on suspicion of corporate manslaughter after a worker was killed in a trench collapse in Kent.

Comments

This is an good idea, and a bargain at this price too. If there is a fear of conflict of interest it would be interesting to see how many times a construction company has succeeded in overturning an enforcement notice to see how often the HSE get it wrong. In my experience this is very, very unusual. In Austria H&S good practise is the direct responsibility if the client & overseen by the client's insurance company (client insurance of contractor and 3rd party is mandatory for all not just commercial). Breaches are dealt with by fines for increased safety inspections followed by increased premiums. I know of a case where poor safety on a private house project incurred a 5000 euro fine on top of immediate corrective action costs.

Julian King, 11 April 2011

Principal Contractors should appreciate the value of ongoing safety audits & tap into the help that a good CDM-C can bring to the table if only given the opportunity. As we can see from the above article this is only going one way & that is that the Principal Contractor will be paying even more than he does now when things go wrong. A CDM-C is much more cost effective than a HSE Inspector!

Richard Pickles, 27 May 2011

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