The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has announced it is to consult on proposals to make its Fee For Intervention (FFI) charging scheme “fully independent”.

The move follows an application for judicial review of the scheme’s disputes process by OCS Group UK Ltd. The company had failed to overturn the Fee For Intervention bill from the HSE – a process by which the HSE charges for enforcement activity.

Organisations liable for FFI fees can challenge them via a “Queries and Disputes” process. But the way in which the HSE adjudicates on disputed FFI invoices has been criticised for lacking impartiality.

Appeals against fees end up before a disputes panel of two HSE staff and one independent person. If the panel doesn’t approve the appeal the organisation must pay the adjudication costs of £129 an hour – which can greatly increase the original bill!

OCS argued the panel doesn’t have the independence required to fairly determine matters. However, the company’s judicial challenge has been dropped after an agreement was reached with the HSE.

What next?

The HSE now says it will consult “relevant stakeholders” on amending the disputes process with a view to making it “fully independent”.

The HSE said it always kept things under review and that the time was right to move to a “completely independent” disputes process.

If OCS’s judicial challenge had successfully gone ahead, the existing process may have been replaced by a completely new system. But there’s no guarantee the HSE’s proposed amendments will meet the independence levels the FFI’s critics require.

It will be interesting to see if OCS restarts its challenge should the consultation fail to bring about a process that’s felt to be fair.

Its not yet known when the HSE consultation will be launched, how long it will take, or just who the “relevant stakeholders” will be.

Watch this space…

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