Contractors were braced for bills of up to £124-an-hour from next month when inspectors were due to start charging contractors for their time if safety breaches were discovered on site.
The HSE confirmed today that the “cost recovery” plan has been delayed until October at the earliest.
But it insisted the scheme has not been dumped and “is still going ahead” despite outrage among contractors.
Gordon MacDonald, HSE’s programme director, said: “The Government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right – and not the public purse.
“The Government intends to proceed with the Fee For Intervention scheme as recommended to ministers by HSE’s Board in December in response to the formal consultation that took place last Summer.
“Discussions are still taking place on the technical details of the scheme, which we expect to conclude soon.
“Therefore, FFI will not be introduced in April but at the next available opportunity, which is likely to be October 2012.”
The planned hourly charges have stunned construction companies who have seen their own pay rates squeezed during the downturn.
One contractor told the Enquirer: “What world are these people living in?
“At a time when most contractors and subbies are having to argue over charge out rates of £20 – £45 an hour, here comes your local expert at box ticking charging three or four times that.
“I’m sure the next step to this initiative will be the imposition on local HSE offices to meet quotas for these fees.”