Thursday 18 October 2012

HSE Fee for Intevention budget

Information received under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the HSE have set a budget equivalent to £12 million per year for fees gained under the Fee for Intervention (FFI) process started on 1st October 2012.

Whilst I don't have a problem with the concept that companies who are at fault should pay, there is something wrong with this budget.  At the FFI rate of £124 per hour, £12 million requires 96,000 hours or 55 man years per year.  Or if we take a guess and say that each intervention will take 5 hours, then there needs to be 19,200 interventions per year.  

Whilst the HSE are never going to hit this budget, it is reasonable to expect that inspectors would be set targets and would change from being proactive to escalating the levels of problems they see.  This will kill off the concept of reducing the health and safety burden on industry.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Dangerous decanting operation led to devastating inferno

Workers fled for their lives when a fire, which broke out when a flammable vapour ignited, quickly spread to other containers of dangerous solvent mixtures, causing some of them to explode.

Seven of Doncaster firm Solvents With Safety’s workforce were present at the time, but all managed to escape unharmed after a quick-thinking supervisor ordered them to evacuate the site and called the emergency services. The initial blaze was described as escalating to a raging inferno within minutes.

Doncaster magistrates heard that employees were transferring highly-flammable toluene from a bulk container into a smaller drum ahead of the incident, at the company’s Plumtree Farm Industrial Estate on 16 June 2010. They were attempting to fill the drum using a pipe from a container; however, the pipe they used was too short. Consequently, the liquid was dropped from the pipe into the drum, as part of a process called ‘splash filling’, which is known to generate static electricity – a potential ignition source. At the time of the operation, which was not carried out in a bunded area, there would have been a flammable vapour over the surface of the toluene, the flash point of which is just 4 degrees C. It is thought that the build-up of static electricity in the drum ignited the vapour and sparked a fire, which completely ravaged the premises.

An HSE investigation found the ‘splash filling’ method to be wholly inappropriate and it posed a clear safety risk that wasn’t properly assessed.  “The Solvents With Safety workforce was extremely lucky to escape unharmed from this incident,” said HSE inspector, Jayne Towey. “The size and scale of the fire was immense; it took hold in minutes and caused total devastation to the company’s premises. Lives were needlessly put at risk because there would have been no blaze at all had the company taken more care with the decanting operation.”

The safety of workers was further compromised by the fact that the pipe used to fill the containers wasn’t earthed, and because the PPE worn by workers was not anti-static.

Solvents With Safety was also fully aware of the dangers of splash filling, given that the HSE had twice written to it about this very issue, first in May 2006 and, again, in December 2007. In its response to this advice, the company assured the regulator that anti-static PPE would be provided.

Pleading guilty on 3 October to breaching reg.6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, Solvents With Safety Ltd was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £6860 in costs.

Describing the splash-filling method as “fraught with risk”, inspector Towey said the generation of static charge could have been prevented by the provision of a longer filling pipe. “This was a reasonably practicable measure to take,” she explained, “and the company was well aware of the dangers on the back of earlier HSE advice. Companies working with dangerous substances must take extreme care at all times and in all aspects of their operations. That clearly didn’t happen on this occasion and it could have had far-reaching consequences.”

Source: SHP

Thursday 4 October 2012

HSE fee recovery scheme started 1 October 2012

The HSE’s cost-recovery scheme, Fee for Intervention (FFI), came into force on 1 October.

Under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, the HSE will charge employers who break the law for the costs associated with the regulator’s related inspection, investigation and enforcement activities.
  The Regulations are designed to shift the cost of health and safety enforcement from the public purse to businesses that contravene health and safety laws. Under FFI, when an HSE inspector visits a business and identifies a “material breach” of health and safety law, the business will have to pay a fee based on a rate of £124 per hour.

The fee will be applied to each intervention where a material breach is identified and any other associated work. Where the material breach is identified during a visit, costs for the whole visit are recoverable, from as soon as the HSE inspector enters the site to when they leave. The fee will also cover all work to ensure that the breach is remedied, as well as any investigation or enforcement action up to the point where the HSE’s intervention has been concluded, or prosecution proceedings begin.

A “material breach” is defined as a contravention of health and safety law that requires an inspector to issue a written notice to the duty-holder. This may be notification of a contravention, an Improvement or Prohibition Notice, or a prosecution, and must include the law that the inspector’s opinion relates to; the reasons for their opinion; and notification that a fee is payable to the HSE.

Businesses in compliance with their legal obligations will not have to pay a penny, according to the regulator, which hopes that FFI will act as a further incentive for duty-holders to operate within the law and help level the playing field between compliant and non-compliant employers.

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

Legal experts have questioned aspects of the FFI scheme, during the lead-up to its statutory introduction. David Young, head of the health and safety team at Eversheds, said the different health and safety prosecution regimes in England and Scotland – where, in the latter, HSE legal costs are not retrievable through the courts – could have an impact on investigations of businesses north of the border.

He said: “This may cause concern to those companies with interests north of the border, which could find themselves in the position of being investigated but not prosecuted on the basis that fees can be recovered up to the point of commencement of prosecution, but not after.”

Young also reiterated concerns that the scheme may create added tensions between inspectors and businesses, especially given the charges that could be involved. He explained: “From my experience, most recent cases include average HSE inspector rates of around £66 per hour, so this will be a significant increase, particularly as it will be payable without a prosecution.
 For any business to effectively double its charge-out rate to absorb minor sundry items would be impossible, yet that is the very real case that UK business face from 1 October. I imagine that relationships between businesses and some inspectors will become uneasy for a while until the practical application of FFI is clearer.”

Following a draft publication issued in the summer, the HSE has now published a full downloadable guide to the FFI scheme on its website at:
Details on what the Executive identifies as the most basic safety mistakes in the workplace can also be viewed at:

Source: SHP