Both employees and plant performance can be damaged by failures in health and safety (H&S); now the discovery of a material breach looks set to demand HSE fees from engineering companies. There has never been a better time to review and renew safety measures in the workplace, says ERIKS.
Understanding and appreciating the risks to workers and establishing the most effective and efficient practices by which to minimise them can be a complex task but one that looks set to become more urgent than ever. A new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) cost recovery scheme for inspections and interventions is set to come into force this month, subject to Parliamentary approval of the proposed Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012.
These Regulations will put a duty on HSE to recover its costs for carrying out its regulatory functions from those found to be in material breach of Health and Safety law. A material breach is defined by the HSE as a contravention of Health and Safety law that is serious enough to require them to notify the person in material breach of that opinion in writing.
The HSE and the government believe it is right that businesses and organisations that break health and safety laws should cover the costs incurred by the HSE in putting matters right, investigating and taking enforcement action. Until now, these costs have been covered by the taxpayer but, at the time of writing, it is proposed that the investigated company will be required to pay a Fee for Intervention (FFI) at an hourly rate of £124.
As with any change in policy, opinion is divided. The HSE says that FFI will encourage businesses and organisations to comply in the first place or put matters right quickly when they do not, preventing honest businesses from being under-priced by competitors who are cutting corners and putting workers at risk. However, critics are concerned that the approach could lead to a more defensive stance from businesses that are suspicious that the term ‘material breach’ could be too broadly interpreted and that inspectors will be set fee-generation targets.
Leaving aside the more excitable responses, it is true that all too often, health and safety practices are based on a simple assessment of risk based on a premise that health and safety practices are a necessary encumbrance to a business, so FFI could be a positive force in combating complacency.
More enlightened companies are recognising that by adopting a positive risk reduction strategy they can both comply with legislation and improve their productivity and profitability. At a simple level, this approach might involve, for example, selection of exactly the right hearing protection or identification of the best hand protection for different tasks to reduce fatigue and personal injury. However, a positive risk reduction strategy goes far further, encompassing factors ranging from inventory management systems to control the issue of the correct equipment, through to establishing appropriate machine maintenance and repair techniques.
Understanding and appreciating the risks to workers and establishing the most effective and efficient practices by which to minimise them can be a complex task, so it may be advisable to work with a partner such as ERIKS that can help you to cost-effectively and efficiently review and renew your H&S arrangements and help carry out a robust Risk Assessment. And because ERIKS both sells and repairs a range of products and services from market-leading suppliers, they can offer an unbiased service that will enable you to strengthen your H&S profile.
For further information about health and safety and risk assessment from ERIKS, go to www.eriks.co.uk.