As noted in our previous issue, the HSE is looking to bring in a scheme to recover their costs where
investigations show a “clear breach” regardless of whether they proceed with a formal prosecution. If
implemented, this would allow the HSE to seek recovery of their costs in a far wider range of investigations
than is currently the case. The HSE is promoting the scheme as a way of penalising those who break the law or
cut corners, and there is no doubt that the increased fee income (which is estimated to be as much as £43
million a year) would help fill the deficit following the HSE’s 35% budget cut. Although the consultation is
ongoing, the HSE has made clear that the Government has already agreed the scheme in principle and that it is
likely to come into force next year.
The proposed scheme would allow the HSE to charge retrospectively from the date of their first visit where
their investigation establishes that there has been a material breach. They would then be entitled to charge for
any advice given either verbally or in writing, letters detailing any Prohibition or Improvement Notices as well
as any follow up visits or calls to ensure that the failings have been rectified. The HSE estimates that the costs
will be £750 for a breach which necessitates a letter and £1,500 where a notice is issued. However, the charges
will no doubt vary depending upon the complexities of each investigation. Where a large amount of expert
input is required, additional fees would be charged accordingly.
Concerns raised include that inspectors would no longer be impartial and the process would become more of a
money making exercise. However, unsurprisingly the HSE is keen to emphasise that it does not see the
charging process as one which will lead to a change in the decision making process. The consultation
documents are here and the process will close on 14 October.