HSE charges construction companies £10M

What can you buy for £10m?
You could build a horse ‘monorail’ training track for starters.

Perhaps a mansion in the Cotswolds (or a one-bed flat in central London if you’re feeling optimistic).

Or 16,949,152 pints of milk, according to The Guardian.

£10m is also the amount the Health and Safety Executive has charged construction companies over four years to cover the costs of inspectors looking into H&S breaches, according to FOI documents obtained by law firm Clyde and Co.

More than £9.9m-worth of invoices were sent out to companies in the construction industry between 2012/13 and 2015/16 under the HSE’s Fee For Intervention (FFI) scheme, according to the documents.

Firms will receive an FFI invoice through the letterbox if HSE inspectors see a material breach of the law when paying you a visit.

You’ll be charged a fee on the amount of time an HSE inspector spends on identifying and dealing with that material breach – £129 per hour to be exact.

According to guidance issued by the HSE, these material breaches could be anything from not providing guards or effective safety devices to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery, to leaving materials containing asbestos in a poor or damaged condition resulting in the potential to release asbestos fibres.

While most parts of the industry are fortunately well above such practices, there is still a great deal to be done. Almost one in two refurbishment sites failed to meet safety standards in targeted inspections last year.

It should be noted that there is a process for querying and disputing FFI invoices, and that the FOI figures do not tell us how much cash the HSE has actually recovered from construction firms through the scheme.

Regardless, fatalities and serious injuries still happen all too regularly on construction sites, and a zero harm policy means paying attention to small details.

The HSE’s £10m of FFI invoices should serve as a further wake-up call: not only are high safety standards a moral and legal imperative first and foremost, there’s also a heavy price to pay for those who fall short.