During the annual month long drive to improve standards in the construction industry the HSE commenced their campaign on the 18 February 2013 which was set to conclude on 15 March. The annual month long site inspection drive has been running for 7 years and in the last year involved the inspection of 3,237 sites for 4,080 contractors. This is the first year that the fee for intervention scheme is up and running. You will recall that from October last year HSE now have the right to bill for any intervention costs as a result of finding material breaches at any inspection.
Material breaches where there has been a breach in Health and Safety Law serious enough for the inspector to warrant notifying you of that in writing or taking such other enforcement action as he sees fit. The costs accrue from the moment the inspector enters the sites and charge at £124 per hour. The first set of invoices for fees for intervention and charges went out in late January and I have not as yet seen any data with respect to numbers and costs but will hopefully be able to update you in a later article. The head of Construction at the Health and Safety Executive Philip White stated in an article I read in late February 2013 that construction was going to generate a larger amount of cash not because it is easier but because it’s a higher risk industry.
Many businesses were cynical about the fee for intervention being a drive to make the Health and Safety Executive self sufficient and inspectors to be given targets on. As the invoices have started to be sent out these can now be examined to determine whether any particular sector has been targeted to a greater degree then there previously had been. In addition we will now start to see whether companies have an appetite to challenge the HSE on the terms of what a material breach is.
The first stage of challenging an invoice is to contact the fee for interventions team and raise your concerns. With the aim of getting a response within 15 days if you are not satisfied with the outcome then the query becomes a dispute that is escalated to a HSE Senior Manager.
All disputes become Level 1 disputes with a decision made within 15 days to which if you are not satisfied you can raise it to a Level 2 dispute which goes towards the dispute panel with a decision in a further 15 days. Of course any decision made within this process could be challengeable in the administrative court.
I would be interested to hear anyone’s experiences of ever receiving a fee for intervention and whether they have engaged in any dispute of that fee for intervention. This would assist in the transparency in the process so that duty holders know what is fair or an unjust outcome when in receipt of an invoice.
By Craig McAdam