The HSE's controversial cost recovery scheme is almost here and the UK’s manufacturing industry should brace itself for the implications.
From 1 October 2012, inspectors will charge companies £124 an hour for the time they spend investigating and resolving ‘material breaches’ of health and safety law found during a site inspection. These charges will be imposed without prior warning and must be paid within 30 days. They could range from £750 for a letter of advice to thousands of pounds if an investigation leads to a prosecution.
Manufacturing is likely to be in the firing line. By its very nature, it is one of the higher risk industries, with 17,599 non-fatal injuries and 27 fatal injuries reported in 2010/2011 alone. And inspectors have been instructed to concentrate on higher risk businesses.
So, how should manufacturing businesses change their approach to HSE inspections as a result of the cost recovery scheme?
It would be wise not to consider visits from HSE inspectors as an opportunity to seek advice on safety issues. Instead, businesses should focus on ensuring their procedures comply with health and safety legislation prior to a warning that an inspection is taking place. They need to have a process in place to ensure any material breaches found by an inspector are dealt with quickly, and remedial action communicated efficiently to the HSE, thus minimising the time an inspector spends and the level of fine imposed. Businesses should also remember they have a right to appeal an invoice, either by challenging the nature of the alleged breach or the level of HSE costs incurred.
- We have identified the following easy targets where the HSE could find a material breach during a site inspection at a manufacturing plant:
- inadequate guarding on machinery;
- inappropriate use of PPE;
- inadequate training for employees and not taking appropriate disciplinary action where employees fail to follow training or procedures;
- not ensuring risk assessments are in place and not implementing their findings on the shop floor;
- lack of adequate systems for ensuring contractor competence.
In this new era of cost recovery, manufacturing businesses would be wise to look again at their safety systems and agree a clear strategy for managing their relationship with the HSE. Times are certainly “a-changing”.
International law firm DAC Beachcroft is running free seminars on this topic at its offices in London (11 September), Bristol (12 September) and Leeds (12 September). If you would like to attend, please contact Louise Blythman at [email protected].