Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building
CM NEWSLETTER
  • 9 Jan 2017
  • 0 comments

HSE 'Fees for Intervention' hit record high

The amount charged to businesses through the Health and Safety Executive’s controversial “Fees For Intervention” scheme hit a record high last year, having increased every year since the scheme was introduced in 2012, says international law firm Pinsent Masons.

The HSE charged businesses £15m last year, an increase of 23% from £12m the year before. The fees are detailed in the latest HSE report and accounts.

The scheme allows the HSE to recover “intervention” costs from businesses it believes to be in material breach of health and safety law irrespective of any formal enforcement action it might decide to bring. The HSE is not required to provide evidence as to why it suspects a business of wrongdoing and most appeals against the fees are heard by the HSE itself.

The HSE’s charges to businesses have increased by a total of 49% over the last two years, up from £10m in 2013/14 (see graph) – this is not split into industries.

Under the scheme, if the HSE thinks a business is breaching health and safety laws, an inspector will serve a “Notification of Contravention” which triggers the £129 hourly rate for the HSE’s staff man hours. The total charge depends on how long it takes HSE to identify and conclude its regulatory intervention.

The fees the HSE charges businesses through this scheme are intended to cover all its costs, including site inspections and subsequent office work. The charges are also meant to cover the administration costs of invoicing businesses, travel, training and paying staff, telecoms and even IT.

HSE Fees for Intervention 2013-16

Despite forcing businesses to pay over £15m in fees last year, the costs of administering the scheme were even higher. The scheme fell short by £2.7m in 2015/16, which represents an increase of 53% on the shortfall of £1.8m for 2014/15, says the accounts.

The Fees For Intervention scheme is just one of several cost recovery schemes the HSE runs. Although the HSE charges fees through these schemes, recovers its costs following successful prosecutions and receives funding from the taxpayer, it is still losing money. It ran a total budget deficit of £11.7m last year, a 64% increase on its deficit of £7.1m for 2014/15.

Kevin Bridges, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “Generally speaking, this is a very unpopular scheme with businesses and its costs are continuing to mount.

“As well as the HSE’s growing budget deficit, there are concerns that its ‘Fees For Intervention’ scheme is encouraging the HSE to intervene with more businesses in order to generate more revenue to close that gap, although there appears to be no evidence that the gap is in fact closing. As a result, some businesses are naturally growing sceptical of the HSE’s motives.

“There is also limited scope to challenge the costs the HSE imposes and as appeals are heard by the HSE itself, many businesses decide to just pay up. This leaves them potentially vulnerable in the event of future legal disputes as it could be cited as acceptance of poor health and safety performance.

“The best way for businesses to avoid charges is to comply with health and safety law, but we would suggest to those businesses who are considering paying an HSE invoice to state that the payment should be regarded as ‘without prejudice’ and paid for administrative purposes only, to ensure it is not used against them at a later date.

“There is no suggestion the scheme will be scrapped but the appeals process is certainly the subject of a legal challenge, to be determined by the courts in 2017.”

Leave a comment

News

16 January 2017 White Collar Factory: The face of intelligent building

16 January 2017 CITB to consult on reformed levy scheme

16 January 2017 MPs divided over Parliament restoration move

16 January 2017 Hall Construction calls in the administrators

16 January 2017 CIOB launches industry's first MOOC on ethics

16 January 2017 Video: Edinburgh demolition's unexpected collapse

16 January 2017 MIT researchers develop material 10 times as strong as steel

15 January 2017 Willmott Dixon's Ally Pally performance

12 January 2017 CPD: A certification that's a breath of fresh air

12 January 2017 Light at the end of the tunnel for Stonehenge plan

12 January 2017 UK considering £1,000 levy on skilled EU workers post-Brexit

12 January 2017 Multiplex steps in for £1bn Nine Elms scheme

12 January 2017 Lord Prior is new construction minister

12 January 2017 Hendry review backs £1.3bn Swansea Bay tidal scheme

12 January 2017 Planners agree to Chelsea stadium redevelopment

12 January 2017 Laser scans show Forth Bridge in incredible detail

11 January 2017 Trackside incident lands rail operator £800k fine

11 January 2017 Plant hire boss jailed after boom lift death

11 January 2017 UK and Ireland local CIOB hubs get to work

11 January 2017 Laing spends £23m on restructure last year