Prohibition Notice in Fees for Intervention Programme Served to Individual, Not Company
One of the first fines associated with the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012 Fees for Intervention (FFI) programme has gone to an individual rather than a company.
As a Health and Safety inspector drove down the A419 on the 19th October last year, he witnessed what appeared to be dust rising from a building site, and because he had investigated a similar issue some months earlier, decided to stop to investigate what was causing it. It was found that workers on this Ringway site were dry-cutting kerbs, exactly as they had been on the case he had studied six months earlier, also on a Ringway site.
Dry-cutting kerbs is dangerous to workers because the dust it creates is known to contain airborne particles including crystalline silica, which when inhaled can cause silicosis, cancer and other respiratory diseases. The Inspector investigated how the situation had arisen and found that the company, Ringway, did have procedures in place to prevent kerbs being cut in this way following the previous incident at their Bracknell Forest site. He also noted that the foreman was present, and as a result made the somewhat controversial decision to issue the Prohibition Notice to him, rather than to Ringway. The Inspector clarified that had the foreman not been witness to the dry-cutting of the kerbs, the notice would have been issued to the company itself.
David Campbell, Ringway's Group Health, Safety and Environment Director explained that, “The Foreman’s responsibilities to manage health and safety on site turned to accountability following the HSE Inspectors intervention”.
The Fees for Intervention system was put into place as a way for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be able to recover some of the costs associated with investigating businesses who were responsible for breaches of safe working conditions. Those who are found to have broken the law are to be charged £124 an hour for the investigation and enforcement action which result from their breach, and if specialist inspectors need to be brought in, the hourly fees could double. The billable hours do not only include the time the inspector is on the site, they also cover the time spent producing letters, emails, reports, research and enforcement notices.
It is possible to appeal against these fees, but if the case is lost the additional hours spent dealing with the dispute will be added to the original charges.
Issuing the invoice to the foreman rather than to the company has drawn attention in this case, as he will receive the bill rather than Ringway. Other businesses such as Osborne have made their own staff aware of what has happened, warning them that, “All employees have health and safety responsibilities which are enforced internally within the Company and externally by the Enforcing Authorities. Failure to fully discharge these responsibilities will result in individual accountability”.
The foreman's presence while the dangerous activities were allegedly being carried out, as well as the company having good procedures in place following the previous incident, are the factors that seem to have been taken into account when making this decision, and the Fees for Intervention Prohibition Notice system has not been in place for long enough to know whether or not this will be a regular or a very occasional occurrence .
(Photo Credit: Images Money)