Launch of HSE’s cost-recovery scheme put back by six months
The HSE’s ‘Fees for Intervention’ (FFI) scheme, under which it plans to recover its investigation costs from businesses it finds to be in breach of health and safety law, will not now start in April, as originally planned.
The regulator announced today (15 March) that further discussion of “technical details” is required before the scheme can be launched. Owing to parliamentary process this means it will likely not come in now until October this year.
The HSE’s programme director, Gordon MacDonald, 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.
“Discussions are still taking place on the technical details of the scheme, which we expect to conclude soon. Therefore, FFI will not be introduced in April but at the next available opportunity, which is likely to be October 2012.”
The HSE said it will take advantage of the extra time to work further with businesses to improve their understanding of the scheme and how it will affect them. A practice run of the new processes and procedures underpinning the scheme is already underway. All those who will be involved in implementing it are involved; for example, inspectors who uncover material breaches, or contraventions – which will be the trigger for costs recovery when the scheme goes live – are explaining to the duty-holders what this means and what the implications for them would be if the scheme were already in force.
Detailed guidance for employers and organisations will be available on the HSE’s website ahead of implementation.
The scheme was the subject of a lively discussion by a panel of leading health and safety lawyers at last week’s IOSH 2012 conference. Panel member Paul Verrico, associate and solicitor advocate, at Eversheds, welcomed today’s announcement, saying: “Many dutyholders will hope that the period between now and implementation will give the Executive an opportunity to reconsider the manner in which the scheme will operate. Most Eversheds’ clients are not entirely against the idea of ‘fee for fault’ but are concerned that the scheme may not be administered fairly, with inconsistent decisions being made. Some companies have stated that they see the scheme as, essentially, a secondary business tax, given the HSE estimate as much as £38 million pounds could be recovered via the scheme.
“This contrasts with the less than £8 million which the Executive recovered last year from prosecution.”
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