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Break health and safety laws and pay HSE's costs

From today, those who break health and safety laws are liable for recovery of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action. The HSE cost recovery scheme is called Fee for Intervention (FFI).

HSE chief executive, Geoffery Podger, said: "The most basic safety mistakes in the workplace can devastate lives and result in real costs to industry.

He added: "It is right that those who fail to meet their legal obligations should pay HSE's costs rather than the public purse having to do so."

Fee for Intervention provides a further incentive for businesses to manage health and safety effectively and to operate within the law. It should also help level the playing field between those who comply and those who don't.

The FFI hourly rate for 2012/13 is £124. The many businesses that comply with their legal obligations will continue to pay nothing.

Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), agrees this is a good idea: "Cost recovery in principle is a good move, as a way of transferring enforcement costs from the tax-payer to the transgressor.

"If businesses do the right thing and protect their workforce they'll avoid cost recovery. But, if the law is disregarded then businesses will pay the price. This will potentially help to create a level playing field for all and support the business case for health and safety compliance.

He also commented: "It's vital that this new scheme is monitored and reviewed to ensure it operates as planned and that there are no unintended negative consequences. The Health and Safety Executive needs to ensure consistency and proportionality, and that constructive, effective relationships between duty holders and themselves are maintained for the initiative to function as it should."

HSE will review how FFI is working after the first 12 months of operation, and again within three years of the regime coming into effect.