HSE Fee For Intervention Charges Explained

Summary

HSE Fee For Intervention Charges Explained

FFI, ‘ fee for intervention,’ was introduced under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012. FFI aims to recover the HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action, charging businesses that breach health and safety regulations.

Before 2012, if you received a visit from the HSE and something was wrong with your health and safety practices, you may have received written advice, formal caution, or an enforcement notice. If the issue was severe, you were at risk of prosecution. That’s still the case today. However, since 2012, the HSE has also charged businesses that breach health and safety regulations under the Fee for Intervention (FFI) programme.

That’s right. Anything above verbal advice will result in an invoice from the HSE, not only for the time spent on your site during the visit but also for any time spent investigating and writing cautions or notices.

But what are these charges, and when will you be charged?

A change to HSE’s recovery rates from 1 April 2024

HSE’s hourly recovery rate under Fee for Intervention in 2024/25 has been increased from £166 to £174.

This is an inflationary increase to make sure we continue to recover the total cost of any relevant activity. It is consistent with our strategy of regularly updating rates to maintain our regulatory functions.

Businesses in material breach of health and safety law will be charged this new rate. Businesses meeting their legal requirements will not pay anything for HSE’s regulatory activity.

We’re continuing to follow cross-government debt recovery policies and will continue to offer flexibility to duty holders who might be experiencing financial hardship.

What are the FFI charges?

The headline figure is currently 2024 £174 per hour, which includes several increases from the original £124 to £129 in 2016 and £154 per hour in 2019.

Okay, it is pricey, but the inspector should only be on your site for a few hours, right?

You will be invoiced for more than just the time of the visit. If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety laws (more on that later), you will be charged. This includes the inspector’s time on site and any associated time spent issuing notices, taking statements, getting specialist support, and following up visits. The average fee for intervention invoices is reported to be around £700 and for enforcement notices, £1,500.

Invoices include time spent:

  • Carrying out visits (including all the time spent visiting the workplace during which the material breach was identified)
  • Taking statements and talking to workers
  • Preparing reports
  • Getting specialist support for complex issues
  • Talking to you after the visit
  • Writing notifications of contravention, improvement or prohibition notices

In 2017/18, the HSE invoiced over £15 million in fines to businesses, and that was before the FFI fee increased over 20%

When are you charged?

It’s worth noting that while HSE inspectors have the power of entry, and they can visit at any time, you won’t always be charged under FFI. You are not just charged the moment the HSE inspector turns up at your workplace. The HSE will still do random inspections; you are not automatically charged for this.

HSE inspectors have many legal powers to carry out their work, including the right to enter and inspect your workplace. Find out more about the powers of HSE inspectors.

You will only be charged where the HSE inspector identifies a material breach of the law. In a material breach, you have broken a health and safety law, and the inspector judges that this is serious enough for them to notify you in writing. That’s anything serious enough to need a formal caution or enforcement action to make it safe. This will either be a notification of contravention, an improvement or prohibition notice, or a prosecution.

If you comply with the law, you won’t have to pay a fee.

How can you avoid FFI?

You can’t avoid HSE inspections—they can happen randomly. But you can avoid being targeted by them. HSE inspections can also happen following a complaint or an accident report. If you comply with your legal health and safety duties to provide a safe and healthy workplace, you are less likely to get inspected.

Even if you get inspected, FFI doesn’t need to be a concern. Providing that the HSE inspector is happy with what they find in your workplace and that you have reduced risk as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP), you shouldn’t be issued an invoice after the visit.

Not everything has to be perfect. HSE inspectors are still giving verbal advice and help during the inspection free of charge, provided only minor issues are identified.

Can you dispute an FFI invoice?

The FFI scheme was pretty controversial when it was introduced back in 2012, no doubt about it. But it looks like it is here to stay. So, even if you disagree with the concept, it’s the law. And the thinking behind it is that the HSE is an enforcing authority. It’s necessary to enforce the health and safety laws where they are not being complied with and to protect workers from unsafe workplaces. So, it makes sense that those breaking the rules pay for the required enforcement action.

But not everything is black and white in health and safety. Health and safety regulations are less prescriptive and often impose the responsibility on employers to manage risk. This might mean that your interpretation of the requirements differs from that of the HSE inspectors.

If you decide to dispute an FFI invoice, your dispute goes to an independent HSE panel. But disputing the invoice comes with its risks. If the dispute doesn’t go in your favour, more time means additional fees!

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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