Fit-out firms accuse HSE of site safety visit fees fit-up

Aaron Morby 11 years ago
Share

Fit-out contractors claim they are being unfairly targeted by Health and Safety Executive inspectors applying the new Fee For Intervention scheme.

Specialist contractors raised the alarm about the new scheme with three of the sectors’s main trade bodies as the first bills landed on their desks at the end of January.

Now specialist contractors are calling for independent monitoring to ensure the controversial FFI scheme is being operated fairly.

They also complain there is no public definition of what is deemed a material breach, which triggers the HSE cost recovery fees of £124-an-hour.

Chief executive officer at AIS, David Frise said: “I believe it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right but I am uncertain as to how fair the system is – what exactly constitutes a material breach serious enough for HSE to notify in writing?

“It appears to be highly subjective and open to the interpretation of the inspector. Realistically, if you look hard enough you are likely to find a breach of HSE regulations on most sites.”

Members of the association claim HSE inspectors are ignoring main contractors and heading straight for specialists, who they fear are seen as easier targets because they do not have the same firepower to challenge inspector’s rulings.

The Fee for Intervention scheme has been introduced to recover costs from companies caught breaking health and safety laws. But firms fear it could fast turn into a revenue raising exercise.

In an unprecedented move, the Association of Interior Specialists has linked up with fellow interior sector trade bodies, the National Association of Shopfitters and Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors to raise these concerns with HSE officials.

Robert Hudson, NAS director, said: “The corner stone of this legislation is the term ‘material breech’.

“How can we advise our members on a strategy of compliance when the HSE are unable to provide a definitive explanation?

“To the untrained eye, it would appear to be a licence to print money. The industry needs firm and friendly guidance, not the subjective judgement of an inspector looking to raise another invoice.”

Interim director at FPDC, Steve Halcrow said: “Health and safety is of paramount importance on any construction site and we’d support any improvements in its implementation.

“However, we are concerned that the current proposals to adopt the FFI scheme could unfairly penalise specialist subcontractors.

“It is essential that a clear set of guidelines outlining what is required is put into action by the HSE.

“The HSE also needs to ensure probity as we see the need for an independent third party to monitor the scheme and ensure it is applied fairly and avoids being seen as tax to generate income.”

A spokesman for HSE said: “The construction industry is a high risk sector and HSE is focusing on high risk and poor performing sectors with fewer proactive inspections for businesses in lower risk areas. FFI will not influence which businesses we inspect.

“Individual inspectors do not have cost recovery targets. Enforcement decisions are made within published and longstanding frameworks which are subject to line management checks, peer reviews and internal audit to help ensure consistency.”

The HSE added that an Enforcement Policy Statement and Enforcement Management Model, together with examples of material breaches, could be found in the guidance for businesses on FFI available on HSE’s web site.

The spokesman said: “The Government and HSE believe it is right that those who break health and safety law, and not the public purse, should pay the costs incurred in making them put matters right.

“The many businesses that comply with their legal obligations will continue to pay nothing.”

Anyone receiving an FFI invoice will have 21 days from receipt in which to query it, should they believe they weren’t in material breach of the law or the time the fee is charged for is incorrect.

If they remain unhappy after the HSE’s response they will then have a further 21 days in which to lodge a dispute.

Latest news

Stonehenge tunnel hit by another legal delay

Court upholds latest appeal against £1.7bn scheme by campaigners
3 hours ago

Plans go in for huge Olympic Park construction hub

Bow Goods Yard could deliver 3.5m tonnes of materials a year to sites across London
7 hours ago

Surgo Construction went down owing £4.5m

Biggest creditor is Bellway Homes after dispute on housing job
10 hours ago

Plan for £100m Liverpool Baltic station

Construction work could begin next year
11 hours ago

Vistry seals £157m West London housing deal

Around 575 homes to be built at Merrick Place scheme in Ealing
9 hours ago

Streamlined Watkin Jones returns to profit in first half

Multi-room specialist sees secured work pipeline hit £1.4bn
9 hours ago

Bellway hires ex-brickie as group construction chief

James Griffin to oversee move to the Future Homes Standard and timber frame.
10 hours ago

Persimmon under fire for delays to £10m relief road

West Suffolk Council serves Breach of Condition Notices after timetable slips again
10 hours ago

BAM wins £33m Kent secondary school job

Replacement Swanley academy to be built at live school site
10 hours ago

Aluminium cladding specialist collapses

Melton Mowbray-based firm worked for several main contractors
1 day ago

Brickwork contractor Lee Marley returns to profit

Affordable and rental homes demand lifts brickwork contractor
1 day ago

Housing contractor Durkan suffers second year of losses

More fire safety provisions tip firm into £3.9m loss
1 day ago

Farrans makes breakthrough on tricky tunnel job

Tunnel under Tees latest part of new £155m water pipeline job
1 day ago

Heidelberg buys aggregates and earthworks specialist B&A

Latest deal follows acquisition of Mick George
1 day ago

Flagship biodiversity net gain scheme flawed

NAO warns Government's flagship green development scheme at risk of failure
4 days ago

Plan in for £3bn Lincolnshire mega data centre

3.3m sq ft Humber Tech Park will be one of Europe's largest data centres
4 days ago

Green light for Digbeth 1,300 homes scheme

Warner’s Fields scheme to start with excavation and landscaping of the River Rea
4 days ago

£210m M3 Junction 9 upgrade gains consent

VolkerFitzpatrick to start work in early 2025 on Winnall roundabout, near Winchester
4 days ago

United Living wins 14-year L&Q homes repairs deal

Trafford housing upkeep deal worth £205m
4 days ago

£400m Lewisham resi-led scheme advances

Land deal paves way for Amro Partners' 1,000-home London scheme
4 days ago

McLaren gets go-ahead for Grade II listed Leeds student scheme

Springfield House to be revamped and two new wings added
4 days ago

Piling giant to fit people alarms on all rigs

Cementation Skanska upgrades site safety systems
4 days ago

Vistry to make £800m profit after subcontractor cost cuts

House builder bullish about shareholder returns after asking suppliers for discounts
5 days ago

Shareholders approve £2.5bn Barratt and Redrow merger

Final hurdle is for the competition regulator to approve the deal.
5 days ago

Green light for £80m Leith waterfront revamp

Build-to-rent homes and student accommodation scheme to be built
5 days ago

Tilbury Douglas clears Interserve legacy jobs to return to profit

Revenue tops £500m in first year as standalone contractor
6 days ago

Land deal paves way for Manchester civil service office hub

Government buys five acres at former Central Retail Park
5 days ago

Speller Metcalfe wins Wolverhampton library upgrade

Full works are due to start in the autumn
5 days ago

Skills shortage puts big infrastructure projects at risk

Government failing as an intelligent client and now over-reliant on consultancies
6 days ago

Contractors face further insulation board price hikes

Cost of PIR insulation boards set to rise another 10%
6 days ago

Contractor services