HSE to charge ‘at fault businesses’

The HSE has revealed details of its plans to charge for serving enforcement notices and advice for a ‘material breach’ of the law.

It is expected to generate revenue of more than £43 million a year.

The proposal covers all businesses regulated by the HSE, excluding those in sectors such as chemicals and mining, where separate charging regimes are already in place.

The HSE proposes that if an inspector finds a material breach they would charge from the start of the visit and for time spent giving verbal advice, sending letters detailing the failing, completing Prohibition or Improvement Notices, plus any follow-up visits or phone calls to ensure fault has been remedied.

The HSE estimates these activities will typically cost £750 for a breach that necessitates sending a letter and £1500 for serving a notice. This is based on a provisional hourly rate of £133 which has been calculated to cover the inspectors’ time plus that of support staff along with office and facilities costs. Should specialist help be required then charges will be considerably higher.

If you believe you have been unfairly charged or that the charges were not properly explained to you will be able to dispute the bill. But where the judgment goes against you, they plan to charge you for the extra time spent on the dispute.

Is it fair for them to charge?

It can be argued that, like environmental law where the ‘polluter pays’, those who breach health and safety should pay. But at present there is not proposal for the Local Authorities to start charging, so only those look after by the HSE face paying.

What affect will this have on the way small businesses view a visit from an HSE inspector?

Will they distrust inspectors thinking they will be out to ‘make money’ out of them?

The HSE says charging could be introduced as early as next April.

A three-month consultation exercise was launched on 22 July calling for views on the scheme’s structure and level of charging.

The consultation document also notes that charging will not be discretionary and that inspectors will be obliged to bill for work to remedy material breaches once charging starts next year.

The consultation documents can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/cd235.htm