If the HSE visits your workplace and discovers a material breach of health and safety laws, it will charge money for the investigation and providing steps to ensure the breach is corrected. This is called a Fee For Intervention (FFI). As a highly regarded health and safety lawyer, I have successfully advised and represented organisations who have challenged the issuing of an FFI.
When will an FFI be issued?
The Health and Safety and Nuclear (Fees) Regulations 2016 states a fee is owed to the HSE if:
- a person is contravening or has contravened health and safety laws; and
- an inspector is of the opinion that the person is or has done so, and notifies the person in writing of that opinion.
Prior to the introduction of FFI in October 2012, the taxpayer picked up the tab for HSE investigations. Now the company or individual found in material breach of health and safety legislation must cover the costs of the investigation.
What is a ‘material breach’?
A material breach will fall under one of four categories:
Health risks – this is where employees or the public are exposed to dangers in the form of hazardous material, fumes, chemicals, excessive noise, or vibration etc.
Safety risks – this includes falls, slips, trips, and accidents involving a moving vehicle etc.
Welfare breaches – concerning the control of health risks, for example, how chemicals are stored etc.
Failure to control risks – for example, not having a risk management plan relating to known risks such as the handling of hazardous substances or not providing appropriate training.
If an HSE inspector finds a material breach, you will be notified in writing and instructed to take remedial action.
How much is FFI?
As of April 2019, the cost recovery rate for the HSE is £154 per hour.
According to published HSE guidance, the fee may include the inspector’s time:
- at your business or workplace
- preparing reports
- getting specialist advice
- talking to you after the visit
- talking to your workers
The fee can vary depending on:
- the length of the original site visit
- how long it took the inspector to advise you on rectifying the breach
- the investigation time
- the time applied to taking action against you
The average FFI invoice is around £700.
What are the steps for challenging an FFI?
You may dispute the FFI on the grounds such as no material breach occurred or the amount if the invoice is incorrect.
To challenge an FFI, you must query the invoice within 21 days of the invoice date. The HSE will respond to your query. Should you disagree with their response, you can raise a dispute by writing to the HSE setting out your reasons. This must be done within 21 days of the HSE’s response to your query.
You will receive a response to your disputed points. If you are not satisfied and the fee still stands, the matter will be referred to an adjudication panel. This panel is independent and is comprised of a lawyer acting as chair and two others who have practical experience of management of health and safety.
As a health and safety lawyer, I have an in-depth understanding of the factors the panel will consider when making its decision and will advise and represent you accordingly.