At some point during construction, refurbishment works we can all expect to experience a visit from the HSE.
Most HSE inspectors approach common sense practice whilst some, and this is from experience, fail to work with the contractor to improve health and safety on site and just see the visit as revenue.
I am all for safe working sites and I want everyone to go home of an evening safe, however from surveys and speaking with contractors it appears the FFI Fee for Intervention is issued perhaps in haste. Refreshing to read that now the FFI can be challenged if required.
The new process, which came into force on Friday 1st September 2017 will require the HSE to disclose information to complainants about how inspectors decided that the organisation was in “material breach” of the law, which triggers an NoC.
It makes clear that the panel will decide most disputes by examining written evidence, though it has the discretion to call a “meeting” with the dutyholder and the HSE.
The regulator said that these meetings can only be held “in exceptional circumstances when the panel considers the case cannot be decided on written information alone”, and then only if both parties agree.
It adds that this is not a “hearing” and there will be no opportunity for witnesses to be called or questioned.
The HSE also said that it would establish a separate disputes process for cases where the FFI bills are small, or there is no dispute about the material breach, for instance if the dutyholder is querying the number of hours billed by the HSE. This move was backed by 60% of consultation respondents.
Such cases will be considered “by a non-lawyer panel member on a ‘papers only’ basis – as there will be no meeting this will assist in reducing costs and burdens on businesses,” the HSE said. One consultation response, from the Health and Safety Lawyers’ Association, said that this specified level should be £1000.
This is a positive move for contractors should it be required for use. However it does not defer from the fact that if a contractor receives an FFI that it can be automatically challenged, the majority of FFI’s are justified… so contractors work safe, implement safe working procedures and risk assessments, train staff to ensure a competent and skilled workforce and by doing this you will minimise the chance of a hefty invoice from the HSE.
If your unsure then telephone us for an informal discussion to see where we can help you 🙂