The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has now launched its consultation on revising the process for considering disputes under its Fee for Intervention cost recovery scheme (the "Scheme").
Following on from our previous update confirming that the revised, fully independent dispute process was to be set up no later than 1 September 2017, the HSE is now seeking views on the proposals.
The Scheme was originally launched in October 2012 and allows the HSE to recover its costs from those it regulates. If an inspector identifies serious health and safety failings in the workplace about which they need to write to the dutyholder, then that party has to pay the costs of the HSE visit. If they wish to dispute the amount charged or disagree that there has been a material breach, they can make a written "query" to the HSE.
If the dutyholder is not satisfied with the response to the query and wishes to escalate the matter, then a "dispute" can be raised in writing. Until now, disputes were considered by a panel which consisted of two members from the HSE and one independent person.
However, following widespread criticism of the process as well as recent proceedings for judicial review (which were subsequently curtailed by the HSE's agreement to implement a new regime), the HSE is now consulting on a revised and fully independent process for considering disputes in relation to the Scheme and how it should operate.
In particular, the HSE is seeking views on:
- Provision of information: depending on the nature of the dispute the HSE will provide information setting out further detail, including relevant provisions that have been contravened and why those contraventions are said to be material breaches.
- Representations from dutyholders: opportunity will be provided to the dutyholder to make written representations to include any information, documents or evidence which the dutyholder wishes to be taken into account.
- Consideration of disputes: future disputes will be considered by a panel independent of the HSE consisting of a lawyer as chair together with two other members with practical experience of health and safety management.
- Minor disputes: Whether there should be a different process where the amount of the fees is small and/or there is no dispute about whether there is a material breach.
- Suspension of dispute process: in cases where an investigation or appeal against an enforcement notice is still pending, the dispute process will be suspended until the outcome of any enforcement action or appeal is known.
- Queries: the process for querying an invoice prior to disputing it will remain the same.
The consultation closes on 2 June 2017 and anyone wishing to submit their views is invited to do so via an online questionnaire, which can be accessedby clicking here.