The unpopularity of the Health and Safety Executives Fee For Intervention (FFI) scheme may have been underestimated, after findings from an independent review conducted for the government in September were published. Commentators have claimed that the findings of the review panel were not accurate as not all of the businesses who were critical of FFI were willing to speak out. It has been suggested that the reluctance of businesses to speak out was not down to “fear of retribution by the HSE but just of being seen as a critic, as being anti-regulation”.
The independent review panel had originally concluded that concerns voiced in January that FFI was a “dangerous model” were largely unfounded. However, the panel did find that the reputation of FFI has not got any better, and those who had been invoiced as part of the scheme were 14% more likely to have a negative opinion of the HSE. Only 46% of duty holders who had been inspected under FFI would ask an inspector for help, with some duty holders being concerned about drawing attention to issues that could result in a charge.
The unpopularity of FFI appears to be growing within the ranks of the HSE inspectors too, as they claim it has made their job more challenging and in some cases more dangerous. Incidents of violence and aggression towards inspectors has almost quadrupled between 2011 and the start of 2014, and inspectors believe that between one-third and a quarter of those incidents are directly attributable to FFI. No plans have been announced to alter or amend the FFI scheme as a result of the panel’s review, but with multiple reviews and a consistent level of discontent it seems that the controversy around FFI will not go away any time soon.