Tag Archives: fee for intervention

British Safety Council responds to HSE cost recovery consultation

24 Oct

The British Safety Council has submitted its views to HSE concerning its proposals to extend it power to charge for specific interventions including where action is taken by the regulator to address a material breach of health and safety law. The British Safety Council based its submission in part on the results of survey of its members and on the knowledge of health and safety regulation and management built up over the last fifty years. Generally, members were content with the proposal, recognising that HSE needs to address its costs and that in principle those who operate outside the law should contribute to the costs of regulatory action.

Alex Botha, the British Safety Council chief executive, said: “In our response we made clear that our members, in the main, felt that the compliant and committed had nothing to fear from these proposals – and were certain that this change would drive improvements and a higher level of compliance and consequently a reduction in workplace injuries and work-related ill health occurrences. Under present arrangements the non-compliant appeared to have an unfair business advantage by not making the investment necessary to effectively control the risk of injury and ill health.”

However concerns were raised by a small but significant number of members about how this change will impact on the regulator/duty holder relationship. Some thought it may create the conditions for a less open relationship between the two. The British Safety Council acknowledged HSE’s commitment to measure the impact of the proposed changes on the level of compliance. However it also though it necessary to measure any indirect impact on the incidence and number of workplace injury and work related ill health occurrences.

The new charging regime is planned to come into force in April 2012.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Health and Safety

22 Jun

 The British Safety Council attended the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health and Safety on 21 June 2011.

Gordon McDonald of the HSE spoke on the issue of fee for intervention, which is a central, and probably the most immediate, part of the government’s planned legislation. This would be in relation to the recovery of costs of effort where there is evidence of non-compliance.

McDonald reported that HSE has been undertaking some early consultation with a range of stakeholders on the proposals, and will continue to do so into July. Some have already been identified. Local authorities reportedly expressed a “mixed view” about cost recovery – with many wondering whether they would be given discretion to decide whether to levy a cost recovery notice, or not. The HSE will be seeking clarification from the Lofstedt review on this issue. It will also be seeking to ensure that concerns about inspector consistency are met. There has also been concern that inspectors may in some cases be motivated by motives related to revenue generation , rather than pure health and safety issues. The HSE will be looking to allay such concerns as well. Hopefully, such issues will be tackled by the 12-week consultation exercise that the HSE is launching in July 2011. He emphasised that the consultation will not be about the policy “as that was taken as read” but rather focus on how to make it workable. It was anticipated that they will be doing a dry-run of the charging system October through to December 2011, before implementation in April 2012.

Additionally, he identified three further areas that will be targeted in relation to cost recovery, though these were not as immediate. One area includes cost recovery in hazard sectors already not covered by such an approach, such as mining, pipelines and explosives.. Another is in relation to charges associated with land-use planning where HSE is a statutory consultee, which will need to be addressed through the planning legislation. A third area is regarding costs to account for statutory advice when sought by parties, such pre-application advice to developers or to foreign governments. When raised as a question, MacDonald responded that currently it is unclear whether the revenue from such services will feed back into the HSE.

Andrew Miller, MP, spoke about his views on the Lofstedt Review, on which he will be the Labour representative. According to Miller, Professor Lofstedt was keen to ensure that his role would be independent before he took the post, an encouraging sign. What Miller found somewhat less encouraging was the mass of statutory instruments up for “simplification.” Some 200 SIs in 30 workplace categories are listed in the call for evidence – and all need to be dealt with in detail. Miller expressed fears that this would not be possible, and that pressures to over-simplify could prevail.

Nevertheless, he recognised the opportunity to address those regulations that may be out of date and the potential to consolidate some, while cautioning that reducing the amount of regulations might give some “numbers game satisfaction” without affecting real change that can be felt by businesses and workers.

 

Blog by:
Sam Urquhart, Interim campaigns and engagement manager

Shifting the cost of health and safety regulation – consultation looms

15 Jun

The government in its plans for further health and safety reform set out in Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone made clear that it believed “that it is reasonable that businesses that are found to be in serious breach of health and safety law – rather than the taxpayer – should bear the related costs incurred by the regulator in helping them put things right.”  The government clearly set out the rationale it believed justified this proposal to enable HSE to extend its power to charge to recover costs way beyond ‘permissioning’ regimes as nuclear, offshore and onshore major hazards and approvals of new substances.

Our members will, when the proposals become law, have to pay a ‘fee for intervention’ to cover HSE’s costs for the work it undertakes to address non-compliance up until the point where compliance is achieved. That fee could be considerable. Although we must await the publication by HSE of the consultation document in order to get a real sense of the scale and cost of what is being proposed it is already clear from what has been made public that these changes could impact significantly, for example, on the relationship between the regulator and the duty holder.  ‘Fee for intervention’ is very different from the ‘polluter pays’ principle that underlies charging for the permissioning regimes.

Already concerns have been raised about the wisdom and equity of charging non-compliant duty holders – in effect imposing an administrative sanction for a breach without having to go through the due process of law.  The argument in support of civil administrative penalties for health and safety breaches is bound to raise its head once again. This new development is bound too to raise questions about HSE efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out its enforcement role.  Transparency and proportionality will be key. The projected income that will be generated from ‘fee for intervention’ has no doubt already been factored into HSE’s budget for 2012/13 and forward years. It is essential then that the British Safety Council effectively represents the views of our members on this radical proposal.  This we will be doing shortly.