Why is HSE Fee For Intervention so Controversial?

by Allan Hanlen on September 22, 2016

Since its introduction in October 2012, HSE Fee for Intervention (FFI) has been subject to ongoing controversy.  The scheme was first introduced to assist the HSE to recoup some of the money spent on investigations and by May 2014 it had raised £13.7million, 26% of it paid by the construction industry.

Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE has previously stated, “Both HSE and the Government believe it is right that those who fail to meet their legal health and safety obligations should pay our costs, and acceptance of this principle is growing. This review gives us confidence that FFI is working effectively and should be retained. We will continue to monitor the performance of Fee for Intervention to ensure it remains consistent and fair.”

Is FFI a fine?

In an article in the SHP, Simon Garret argues that FFI is essentially a fine.  His reasoning was that an invoice arises out of a commercial transaction for goods and services provided. An HSE investigation is not a service; the agency, which derives its powers from the government, makes a decision that the service is warranted and demands payment despite the other party receiving nothing of value in return.

FFI consequences on relations between the HSE and employers

It can be argued that FFI encourages HSE inspectors to apply the law in a black and white fashion, rather than in the spirit of the legislation, which encourages the HSE, employers and unions to work together to benefit society as a whole.  The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was originally based on the creation of less-prescriptive and more goal-based regulations, supported by guidance and codes of practice. For the first time employers and employees were to be consulted and engaged in the process of designing a modern health and safety system.

The fact is that good employers are keen to establish a safe workplace because doing so improves staff morale and productivity.  However, fear of an exorbitant FFI invoice, especially by small organisations lacking the funds to mount an appeal, could drive business to comply with health and safety regulations in a ‘check-box’ fashion.

And this benefits no one, least of all the employees the legislation is designed to protect.

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