Maintaining adequate health and safety levels in the workplace are essential to protecting your employees. Most business owners are aware that breaches of relevant legislation place employees at risk, and can attract large fines for non-compliance. Far fewer understand the costs associated with investigating cases of illegal activities are also added to the final bill.
What is FFI?
Since October 2012, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has had the power to bill employers for the cost of an investigation, known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI). The HSE is actually now legally bound to trying to recover costs for their work investigating material breaches of health and safety legislation from lawbreakers, rather than the public purse.
FFI applies to all organisations regardless of size, so even sole traders whose work makes them responsible for managing risk to the public could be liable for costs. And as you may expect, the costs are not insignificant – £124 per hour at the time of writing.
FFI charges are levied on all aspects of a case where a material breach is reported. This means that the cost of a site visit is charged retrospectively, along with further investigations and the time taken to write any reports or run tests. It is worth noting that FFI is also billed in part hours, that disputed FFI invoices can also accrue additional hourly charges where the sum is found to be correct, and that the HSE makes no estimates upfront as to total charges applied.
In the event that an FFI charge is left unpaid, the HSE can and will pass the debt onto a collection agency.
FFI and Material Breaches
FFI charges are levied in several circumstances, not just in cases that go to court. Where the HSE issues a notification of contravention, or an improvement of prohibition notice, FFI charges may still be payable.
The general rules to which any HSE inspector works are:
- What harm could arise? The inspector tries to define how badly someone could be hurt according to the risk they identify.
- How likely is it that the event will actually happen? The inspector tries to calculate the actual risk of those injuries or health threats occurring.
- How many people are likely to be affected? The inspector must then assess if the risk is realised, how many people will be injured or harmed.
Where the risks are deemed too serious, or outside the legal boundaries, a written notice will be issued, and FFI charges will begin to accrue.
Ultimately any action that an HSE inspector believes a law to have been broken and which results in a notice being issued will almost certainly attract FFI charges.
FFI underlines the importance of responsible Health and Safety management
Health and Safety should be at the forefront of business owner’s considerations, particularly with regards to their employees and the general public. The fact that FFI adds significant costs to HSE inspections and notices should act as a further encouragement to ensure that all is well on your sites in advance.
The financial and human costs of auditing and adhering to health and safety legislation are likely to be far lower than those associated with breaches. Avoiding investigations through compliance is a far more cost-effective strategy for businesses of all sizes.
Have you ever received an FFI charge?
Have you ever been the subject of an FFI charge? How much did it add to the cost of any health and safety breaches observed on your sites? How would you avoid a similar situation in the future? Please comment below because we are interested