Fee for Intervention | Why health and safety breaches could cost your business more in 2023
Written on 16 May 2023
It’s a well-known fact that poor health and safety practices cost businesses money. And with the HSE recently announcing yet another Fee for Intervention (FFI) hike, the cost of non-compliance has climbed once again in 2023.
Following a steady steam of increases over the years, as of 1 April, FFI hourly charges will now set employers back an eye-watering £166 per hour. That’s a 34% increase on the original cost of £124 per hour when the scheme was first introduced a decade ago.
With businesses already feeling the pinch, do you as an employer understand what FFI is and, more importantly, how to avoid having to fork out?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Fee for Intervention?
Essentially, Fee for Intervention (FFI) is a “cost recovery scheme” operated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 – the legal framework which underpins the scheme – the HSE has a duty to recover its costs for carrying out its regulatory functions from those found to be in material breach of health and safety law.
In simpler terms, workplaces that are found to have infringed health and safety rules will be required to pay for the time it takes to put things right, to the tune of £166 per hour. This hourly charge applies to any inspection, investigation and enforcement action undertaken by the HSE, so costs could mount up quickly.
In the HSE’s words, the idea behind FFI is that it “shifts some of the cost… from the public purse to those businesses and organisations that break health and safety laws”.
Since its inception in 2012, the scheme has been met with some scepticism, with some suggesting that it was introduced as a way for the Treasury and HSE to raise money from unsuspecting employers.
Regardless of the motivation behind the scheme, employers must be aware of the very real possibility of FFI penalties, and ensure their workplaces are health and safety compliant, in order to avoid being stung by hourly charges.
While it may be unpopular, the scheme provides an additional incentive for businesses regulated by the HSE to comply with the law. It will be interesting to see what level of enforcement we see in this area as the country emerges from the pandemic."
Nick Wilson, Director of Health & Safety Services
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When would Fee for Intervention charges be issued?
This depends on a couple of factors:
- Whether or not you are found to be in “material breach” of health and safety law. A material breach occurs when the HSE issues a notification of contravention, an improvement or prohibition notice, or a prosecution. Material breaches will generally be those that are substantial and serious; however, the courts have ruled that a series of minor breaches could also constitute a material breach.
- Whether the sector you operate in falls under the HSE’s inspection regime. Sectors that the HSE is responsible for regulating include factories, building sites, schools and colleges, fairgrounds, and hospitals and nursing homes. Premises which are inspected by Local Authorities and other enforcement agencies are not currently subject to FFI, although an independent review of FFI in 2014 recommended that the scheme should be extended.
For what sort of material breaches could Fee for Intervention be imposed?
The HSE identifies four general areas that may trigger FFI charges:
- Health risks, whereby people are exposed to harmful substances such as dust, fumes and chemicals or energy such as noise or vibration.
- Safety risks, whereby potential effects are immediate due to traumatic injury, for example contact with moving machinery, falls from height, or contact with vehicles.
- Welfare breaches, whereby the controls required to manage health risks, or the basic rights of people in a modern society, aren’t met.
- Management of health and safety risks, whereby risks are not managed to a sustainable, acceptable level.
How much is Fee for Intervention in 2023?
Following the latest increase, the HSE now charges £166 per hour for involvement in health and safety material breaches.
The total amount employers can expect to pay will depend on the time it takes the regulator to identify the breach and work with you to take remedial action, including associated office work. That is then multiplied by the hourly rate.
Taking this into account, in 2012, the HSE provided the following example costs:
- Inspection resulting in an email or letter: £750 or six hours’ work (corrected for today’s FFI figures, this works out at £996)
- Inspection resulting in a notice being issued: £1,500 or a day and a half’s work (corrected for today’s FFI figures, this would be closer to £2,000)
- Investigation taking four days: £4,000 (again, corrected for today’s FFI figures, this could cost over £5,300)
- A full investigation could cost employers tens of thousands.
Inevitably, charges are likely to be higher for multiple contraventions.
It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that FFI charges are on top of HSE fines and associated legal costs, so the total cost of a breach could be much higher.
Is the HSE becoming more stringent?
The HSE no longer publishes enforcement statistics as part of its annual statistical release relating to work-related ill-health and workplace injuries. However, its annual report and accounts for 2021/22 reveals that enforcement activity is on the rise again now that the immediate impact of the pandemic has subsided.
To provide some context, in 2020/21, mainly due to difficulties conducting inspections as a result of coronavirus restrictions, just 2,929 enforcement notices were issued by the HSE. However, figures show that this quickly jumped back up 6,900 in 2021/22. This number is similar to the 7,075 notices issued in 2019/20, suggesting that enforcement activity is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
In fact, in the years prior to the pandemic, the HSE issued an average of around 9,000 enforcement notices annually, so it’s reasonable to expect that this uptick in enforcement activity will continue in 2023 and beyond.
So, how do I avoid Fee for Intervention charges?
With FFI on the rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure your organisation is compliant with all relevant health and safety legislation.
Typically, WorkNest Health & Safety Consultants uncover around 50 transgressions during an initial visit to a client’s premises, and it’s not unheard of to find more than 100. Of these, about half a dozen would attract FFI charges. Of course, we help employers to identify these areas of non-compliance and take corrective action so that they’re not caught out when an inspector calls.
Ultimately, the safest approach is to follow competent health and safety advice to and put systems in place to ensure you remain compliant with the law. Risk assessments, regular monitoring, employee training and a robust health and safety policy will all play a part.
Don’t forget, the need for a robust health and safety regime isn’t just about avoiding prosecution and FFI charges – though that will naturally be a motivating factor for businesses – it’s also about benefitting from an overall safer, more productive workplace.
Protect your people and preserve your bottom line with WorkNest
WorkNest helps organisations to take a proactive approach to health and safety management through dedicated consultant support, on-site audits and real-time risk management software.
What’s more, provided you have acted on our recommendations, our optional Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) will cover up to £5,000 of FFI charges for extra peace of mind. And in the event of prosecution, LEI supports the cost of appealing against notices and legal representation.
This combination of specialist support and LEI cover offers the best possible level of protection for your business.
To find out how our fixed-fee Health & Safety support can help you to manage your responsibilities and mitigate the consequences of non-compliance, call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.