The Triennial Review of the Health and Safety Executive has questioned the effectiveness of the Fee for Intervention.
The review was broadly positive about the importance of the HSE as a national, independent regulator of health and safety practice. It acknowledged its influence in reducing and preventing instances of death, injury and ill health in the workplace.
The review – which was designed to challenge the need for the continuation of HSE as a non-departmental government body, confirmed that its existence should continue.
However the review, which was conducted by EEF chair Martin Temple, also made a number of key recommendations for the improvement of services provided by HSE.
In particular, Mr Temple highlighted that there was a need to revisit the Fee for Intervention (FFI), a scheme introduced by the HSE in 2012 which charges employers who are reported to be in breach of health and safety regulations for the services of HSE interventions on-site.
The scheme has come under criticism since its introduction for undermining trust between employers and the HSE in order to make more money for the body.
Speaking in response to the review Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, said: “We note that Temple highlighted concerns over the recently introduced cost recovery scheme, ‘Fee for Intervention’ (FFI). Many of these concerns reflect the views of our members we submitted to the review so we welcome the recommendations concerning the planned review of FFI to be expanded to examine these issues.”
In a climate of declining government funding, the Triennial Review also makes recommendations to assist HSE in being more innovative and efficient in its delivery of health and safety services to British business.
“…there are dangers in over-commercialising HSE’s functions and increased public service involvement in a market which is already well provided for.”
Temple stated in the report that there was scope for HSE to become more commercial in its outlook, while still retaining integrity in its services. He also recognised the need for more robust performance metrics for the health and safety body.
Mr Botha agreed with this view but cautioned “there are dangers in over-commercialising HSE’s functions and increased public service involvement in a market which is already well provided for. We recognise that some 40% of HSE’s current expenditure is already covered by the income it generates.”
This review reflects that of EEF which broadly welcomed the findings of the review. However, a statement issued by the trade body made clear that it felt the review should have examined the potential of creating a unified health and safety agency for the UK.
Terry Woolmer, head of health and Safety Policy for EEF explained: “Although the personal view of the report’s author is that health and safety regulation should be enforced at all workplaces by HSE, we believe the report has missed an opportunity to look in more depth at establishing a unified health and safety agency, including local authorities, to cover all workplace health and safety issues. We recognise the practical issues around this but believe there was scope for the report to propose a feasibility study looking at this option.”
Sharing more detail on the areas where EEF felt the report failed to communicate robust recommendations, Wolmer said his organisation had been keen to see specific recommendations including:
- the provision of a HSE inspector manned advice line
- more pro-active work in Europe to debate OSH EU initiatives
- pro-active involvement on CEN/CENELEC standard making groups
- further HSE sponsored research
- increased levels of market surveillance to ensure a level playing field in relation to EU product directives.