New proposals by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are likely, if they are implemented in their present form, to have serious financial implications for employers that are found to be in breach of health and safety laws, warns Paul Laidler, managing director of Laidler Associates, a division of TÜV SÜD Product Service.
In essence, the HSE is seeking to recover, from offending employers, the costs it incurs while investigating a material breach of health and safety law, and also any additional costs in providing support to the employer as an aid to ensuring that the situation is successfully remedied.
The arrangements have already been agreed in principle with the Government, and the proposals were available for public consultation until 14th October 2011. If, as seems likely, the proposals are adopted, the new system of charging could start as soon as April 2012, and it is estimated that the HSE will charge for its inspectors’ time at a rate of £133 per hour.
“The costs will certainly mount up very quickly,” said Laidler, “so it’s important that employers are fully aware of these new proposals. However, they should also bear in mind that the charges will only apply to companies that break health and safety laws, so those that are careful about meeting their responsibilities and staying within the law will not be affected in any way.”
The new proposals are, however, a wake-up call to businesses to review their health and safety practices and procedures to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. In particular, machinery users are advised to check that their PUWER assessments are up to date and comprehensive in their coverage. Should these checks throw up any concerns, businesses are encouraged to seek expert advice of the type provided by Laidler Associates rather than taking the risk that HSE inspectors may be the first to discover a problem.
“The cost of professional advice from a consultant with a proven track record is modest,” said Laidler, “and will certainly be less than the fines and the new HSE cost recovery charges that are likely to be imposed if health and safety laws have been broken, even inadvertently. Therefore where there is any doubt at all about health and safety compliance, professional advice is a very sound investment.”