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Construction firms paid nearly £3m to safety inspectors, says study

A controversial scheme forcing companies that breach health and safety rules to contribute to the cost of regulation should be kept, according to a new report.

According to Construction News, the report commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive about its fees for intervention scheme said the current level of costs levied on businesses that committed a “material breach” of health and safety rules is appropriate.

The study, by a panel chaired by Ken Moon of the Federation of Small Businesses with members from the department for work and pensions the GMB trade union and professor Alan Harding of Liverpool University, recommended that the scheme be extended to organisations covered by different health and safety enforcement regimes.

The evaluation of fees for intervention was based on HSE data including a survey of people inspected under the scheme. The panel said they were unable to commission additional research because of the tight deadline for the report.

The report said the scheme was unpopular with some inspectors and people inspected  but had been applied consistently.

Some businesses felt less able to ask inspectors for advice, fearing that they might draw attention to a problem that would result in a fee. But the report said this had not been as widespread as feared and found no evidence compliance with health and safety legislation had changenewsd significantly as a result of fees for intervention.

The panel said the found “no compelling evidence to suggest that HSE is using FFI as a ‘cash cow’, solely to generate revenue” but that the HSE should ensure this does not become and is not perceived to be the case in future.

Under the scheme any income the HSE gets from fees for intervention above £10m in 2012/13, over £17m in 2013/14 and above £23m in 2014/15 is passed to the Treasury.

The report said companies paid £10.7m in fees for intervention from its introduction in October 2012 to January 2014. This included £2.8m paid by construction firms.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, said: “Both HSE and the government believe it is right that those who fail to meet their legal health and safety obligations should pay our costs, and acceptance of this principle is growing. This review gives us confidence that FFI [fees for intervention] is working effectively and should be retained. We will continue to monitor the performance of fee for intervention to ensure it remains consistent and fair.”

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