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HSE To Charge Any Company They Choose Starting in October

HSE and local authorities have been gearing up to be able to charge for their intervention in Health and Safety related matters. This was due to start  from April 2012. However in a March press release HSE announced the scheme would be delayed until October 2012.

The release goes on to say:

“The scheme sets out to recover costs from those who break health and safety laws for the time and effort HSE spends on helping to put matters right - investigating and taking enforcement action.

Law-abiding businesses will be free from costs and will not pay a penny.”

It is not clear exactly how it will work but in the event of a prosecution then presumably all of the HSE costs associated with bringing that prosecution will fall on the company being prosecuted – even if they are found not guilty or if the case is not pursued.  

It is perfectly possible to be the subject of HSE interest without having broken any health and safety law and indeed natural justice requires that a company is not guilty until proven otherwise. 

We don’t know if HSE officers are to be targeted on revenue but it is difficult to see how they would not be, and with the fees set at £124 an hour the pressure will mount. We do know that bills will be sent out every month and collected by usual commercial collection techniques.

It is also clear that local councils Health and Safety staff are going to be free to charge the hours they want. In these times of austerity it could be a nice source of revenue.

Every month the HSE issues a series of press releases which generally describe how some company has been fined for some infringement of Health and Safety law. The HSE web site has records of these dating back to 2008. In January 2008 they released 4 such notices and 11 in February 2008 whereas by contrast in January 2012 they released 49 and in 37 in February 2012.  This either means that HSE is prosecuting more people in the run up to becoming self funding or is shouting more about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of Health and Safety and we spend a huge amount of time energy and resource trying to ensure compliance and make sure that no one gets hurt. However the principle behind enforcing authorities demanding payment for their enforcement seems just wrong to me.

I would like to make it clear that these are my views and do not represent a statement on behalf of the company or it’s views.