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27th August 2014

Rise in HSE inspections asks questions of the effects of FFI

Questions have been raised as to whether an increase in inspections by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been driven by the government’s fee for intervention (FFI) scheme.

The number of HSE inspections has increased by 6 per cent in the last year, from 22,240 in 2012/13 to 23,472 in 2013/14, according to international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Laura Cameron, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “There may be concern that the FFI scheme is an incentive for HSE to boost the number of inspections it undertakes because it knows they can bring in extra revenue – following major budget cuts.”

Under the FFI scheme, businesses who have been inspected are fined if, in the opinion of the inspector, there has been a material breach in health and safety law that requires them to issue a notice in writing.

However, Laura Cameron argued that even well-run businesses might be caught “as the test of whether a breach is material is a judgement call for the HSE inspector, and they will have a keen eye on all misdemeanours”.

Speaking to media outlet SHP (www.shponline.co.uk), Kevin Hegarty, spokesperson for HSE, said: “There is no evidence that FFI has had any impact on whether we regulate any more or any less.

 “The increase in inspections is a natural consequence of how we do things, targeting industries that we feel we can have the most effect on, and predominantly targeting high-risk industries.”

In January 2014, government appointed Martin Temple undertook an independent review of the HSE. During this review, the issue of FFI was addressed and it was stated that the HSE’s planned review of the scheme should include stakeholder views of how it is working, along with an examination of whether or not it should be retained.

In an interview with media oultet SHP (www.shponline.co.uk) in May, Martin Temple explained that there is a perception that FFI has been introduced to plug gaps in the HSE budget. He stated: “I know fine well that the money from FFI goes through the treasury but it is structured in a way that some of it comes back to fill that gap in the HSE budget.

“I just say there should be a clear distance between the income generated by FFI and the funding of HSE. If you get rid of that, the perception that these fines are there to fund the organisation will change.”

An independent chair led review panel is set to report the HSE board on the operation of FFI, and how it has impacted on the HSE’s relationship with UK businesses later this month.

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