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HSE consults on cost recovery from non-compliant businesses

01 August 2011

The HSE has launched a three-month consultation on how it plans to recover costs for its interventions from businesses that fail to comply with health and safety laws.

As agreed with the Government earlier this year, the regulator will impose fees on companies where a material breach of the laws is discovered during an inspection or investigation. Those fees would apply up to the point where the HSE’s intervention in supporting the company in rectifying matters has concluded.

Under the proposals currently up for consultation, the HSE will charge for its time at a rate of £133 per hour. The cost of any supplementary specialist support required by the regulator will also be passed on, and invoices will be required to be paid within 30 days. An appeal system will be operated in the case of any disputes over cost recovery.

To implement the new system, which is planned to be operational by April 2012, the HSE is proposing to replace the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2010 with new regulations. As well as carrying over the existing cost-recovery arrangements – such as those relating to offshore oil and gas installations, some chemical and petrochemical sites, and licensed nuclear installations – the new regulations would place a legal duty on the HSE to recover the costs of its interventions, i.e. the regulator would not have discretion on whether or not to apply the fee.

The proposals in the consultation, which runs until 14 October, only apply to the HSE and not to equivalent work undertaken by Local Authorities. However, this is one of the issues on which the views of consultees are being sought, and the proposals could be amended in the future to enable Local Authorities to recover the costs of their interventions, also.

Gordon MacDonald, the HSE’s programme director, said: “The Government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right – and not the public purse. These proposals provide a further incentive for people to operate within the law, levelling the playing field between those who comply and those who don’t. Compliant firms will not pay a penny in intervention fees. “We want to hear from as many people as possible about how we plan to operate the scheme, to help make its introduction as successful as possible.”

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