40% increase in HSE cost recovery invoices
In October 2015, it was reported that invoices issued to construction companies by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for costs recovery had increased by 40% in the three years since they were introduced.
The HSE’s Fee for Intervention scheme was first introduced in October 2012 and was intended to give HSE the power to charge those in contravention of health and safety legislation for investigatory and enforcement costs incurred by the executive.
Analysis by legal firm Pinsent Masons revealed that in August 2015 the average cost of an invoice had risen to more than £700, an increase of 40%.
The HSE has in recent years been faced with difficult funding cuts, leading to the controversial speculation that the scheme is now being used to raise money from the industry.
Laura Cameron, a Partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “The HSE will need to recoup the funding lost in budget cuts via wider use of the Fee for Intervention scheme. The regulator is issuing those guilty of breaches with invoices for increasingly significant sums – signaling that it remains serious about clamping down on non-compliance.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, this approach, the number of enforcement notices issued by the HSE fell in 2014/15 to 9,446 from 10,119 in 2013/14. The number of cases in England and Wales that were prosecuted rose by 2% from the previous year to 586.
At the start of 2016, new sentencing guidelines are expected to be introduced which will mean tougher penalties for corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences, with fines of up to £20m for those found guilty.
Cameron said, “The increase in the number of prosecutions is, of course, encouraging and alongside tougher sentencing guidelines for corporate manslaughter, signals that a more hard-line approach is coming.”
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