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What is the HSE FFI – Fee For Interventions?

If the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) finds your business has breached health and safety law, you’ll have to cover the costs incurred by HSE to identify the breach and help your business to get up to standard. Like fines, FFI aims to shift the financial burden of ensuring safety at work from the public purse to the businesses and individuals who break the law.

Read on to find out when an FFI is applied, how the amount is calculated, who the fees apply to, and some examples of when they might arise and how to avoid them.

What is FFI?

The Fee For Interventions is the amount of money you must pay if your business is found to be in material breach of relevant health and safety laws.

What is the HSE fee for intervention cost?

The HSE FFI currently costs £154 per hour. This covers the hours taken for the original visit, and the time it takes for HSE to discover the breach and help you rectify it, including administrative work.

The fee includes the time the inspector spends at the workplace, report preparation, time that was taken getting advice and explaining the situation to the business owner and staff, and time spent taking action against the person responsible for the breach.

For example, if the total time spent by HSE in identifying and putting right the breach is 6 hours, the fee will total 6 x 154 = £924.

Who does it apply to?

The HSE FFI applies to the duty holder who is responsible for ensuring health and safety law is followed, where HSE is the enforcer. This includes employers, self-employed persons who have put others at risk, companies (public and limited), general, limited and limited liability partnerships (LLPs), as well as crown and public bodies.

What is a material breach?

A material breach occurs when rules are broken seriously enough for an HSE inspector to formally write to inform you that action must be taken to deal with the breach. If after an inspector’s visit, you receive a notification of contravention (NoC) from the inspector, you have to pay the FFI.

The NoC details the law that was broken, the reason the inspector believes it has been broken and informs you that a fee must be paid to HSE.

The fee only applies when you are given an NoC. If you’re simply given advice by the inspector, whether written or verbal, you won’t be expected to pay for this.

What are the exemptions?

The FFI doesn’t apply to employees, or to a self-employed person who only put themselves at risk.

It also doesn’t apply to offences committed under sections 36 and 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, because they do not include a duty which can be breached.

In a situation where both an employee and employer are in material breach, the FFI only applies to the employer, because they are the duty holder.

The FFI doesn’t apply to some licenced activities, as the costs of a breach are covered or are planned to be covered by the licence fee or another scheme. This includes working with asbestos under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and works carried out involving biological agents at containment levels 1 to 4.

HSE does not apply the FFI where another fee already covers some or all of those costs. This includes sites where the top-tier requirements of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (COMAH) apply, as well as lower-tier COMAH sites in relation to the control of major accident hazards.

The FFI exemptions also exclude offshore oil and gas production facilities, Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996, or sites licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. Other exemptions are onshore boreholes and first-aid approvals services where HSE already recovers a fee.

There is no FFI charged by HSE for carrying out its statutory functions related to the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999, the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2000, the Biocidal Products Regulations 2013 or the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009.

The FFI only applies to material breaches of laws made under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It doesn’t apply for work done by HSE in relation to appeals at an employment tribunal or prosecutions in court, as those costs are recovered in other ways.

Fee for intervention examples

The FFI is applied in situations where there is a serious risk of ill health or injury, through health, safety or welfare breaches. Breaches can occur through lack of maintenance or equipment, inadequate training for employees, lack of adequate safety precautions, or a lack of health surveillance which exposes people to ill health.

Health risks include exposing others to harmful substances, for example, chemicals, fumes, dust, or noise or vibrations. Effects can occur immediately or in the future, such as asbestos poisoning or asthma.

Safety risks that incur an FFI cover immediate, potential risks of traumatic injury, such as falls from height, contact with moving machinery, or contact with vehicles, as well as failure to carry out inspections or allowing an uncertified person to carry out gas works.

Welfare risks include breaches of the requirements that prevent health risks, or breaches of a basic right of people in modern society, such as inadequate sanitation equipment, lack of drinking water, or lack of a suitable place for employees to eat meals.

Poor management of health and safety risks can incur FFI, for example, a lack of emergency plans, inadequate training of employees, and not making suitable risk assessments.

What are HSE enforcement options?

If a breach has occurred, a range of enforcement options are available, following the HSE’s Enforcement Management Model (EMM). After investigation, the inspector may issue an Improvement Notice. If the risk is great, or the Improvement Notice is not followed, they can prohibit the work activity, or seize and make safe the offending article or substances causing the risk, effectively shutting down a site where necessary.

As breaching health and safety law is a criminal offence, HSE can open a prosecution and take you to court, and following a conviction, recoup both litigation costs and the FFI. The prosecution can result in fines, shutting down sites and in the most serious cases, a prison sentence.