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A small business guide to Fee for Intervention (FFI)

September 13, 2017

Whatever industry you’re in, Health & Safety is a critical part of running a business. And with substantial fines if you get it wrong, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

In 2015/16 alone, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and – in Scotland – the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecuted 696 businesses, and of those cases almost all (95%) were convicted, amounting to a grand total of £38.3m worth of fines. The average fine? A potentially business-breaking £58,000.

Many of the HSE and COPFS’s prosecutions stemmed from material breaches uncovered during HSE inspections where a Fee for Intervention (FFI) was charged. To help you steer clear of nasty fines, we asked Health & Safety experts Citation to put together an in-depth guide on all things FFI.

What is a Fee for Intervention FFI?

Quite simply, a Fee for Intervention (FFI) is a fee imposed by the HSE to cover any costs incurred when an inspector finds a material breach within a business.

Before FFI came into force, the public paid for the time HSE inspectors spent investigating and enforcing material breaches. Since its introduction though, the financial burden falls onto the businesses found breaking Health & Safety laws.

5-Step Inspection process

HSE inspectors will work through five core stages when inspecting businesses. These are:

Stage 1: Identifying what the actual risk is.

Stage 2: Looking at what level of compliance the law requires, and the level of risk that remains when the law’s complied with.

Stage 3: Assessing the risk gap. In other words, how far off is a business’ actual standard of compliance from the expected standard.

Stage 4: Identifying duty holder factors. For example, looking at an employer’s previous and current approach and performance when it comes to Health & Safety.

Stage 5: Measuring whether or not the indicated enforcement action meets relevant public interest factors.

Going through each of these stages helps inspectors reach a verdict as to whether general advice, a verbal warning or more serious action – like a written notification, prohibition notice or prosecution, for example – will be taken.

What constitutes a material breach?

Material breaches fall under four general headings:

Health risks

This includes hazards that could result in an employee being exposed to harmful substances, like dust, fumes or chemicals, or where the workplace or its activities may cause serious health effects from noise or vibration.

Safety risks

This encompasses any form of accident that could directly cause an employee a serious injury. Examples include falling from height, contact with moving machinery or burns from flammable liquids.

Welfare breaches

This refers to how health risks are being controlled.

Management of Health & Safety risks

Any failures to control risks fall under this heading. Failures include things like not having a risk assessment in place, insufficient training or lack of access to competent advice.

Here are some practical examples of material breaches;

RISKS EXAMPLE OF BREACHES
Health risks
Asthma Failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).
Confined spaces Failure to provide procedures or equipment for rescue in emergencies.
Hand-arm vibration Failure to inform employees of the risk from vibration and how to reduce it.
Legionnaires disease Failure to undertake a risk assessment for Legionella.
Noise Failure to provide employees with suitable personal hearing protection.
Safety risks
Lifting equipment Failure to maintain equipment.
Flammable equipment Failure to store drums of flammable solvent in a workshop without lids leading to fire or explosion.
Gas Carrying out gas work without being Gas Safe Registered.
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) Failure to prevent the storage of combustible materials around LPG tanks.
Pressure systems Failure to have systems serviced by trained persons.
Traffic management Failure to define traffic routes, where required.
Machinery Failure to prevent the use of machinery with a broken or missing guard.
Construction Failure to organise the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles on site.
Welfare
Failure to provide an adequate supply of drinking water.
Management of Health & Safety risks
Failure to consider the implications of new processes.
Failure to effectively manage contractors on site.

 

Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of other instances that could constitute a material breach too.

Who does FFI apply to?

FFI only applies to duty holders where the HSE is the enforcing authority. So, if your business is inspected by another Health & Safety regulator – like the Environmental Health Officer, for example – you won’t face any FFI fees. However, fines would still be applicable upon conviction by other enforcing authorities.

If your business is inspected by the HSE and a material breach is found, there are several circumstances which will exempt you from FFI costs. Some of these include:

  • You’re self-employed and don’t put anyone at risk with your work
  • You already pay fees to the HSE for the work via other arrangements
  • You’re required to work with certain biological agents.

How much does it cost?

The hourly FFI rate is currently £129. The bill you’re faced with will depend on how long the HSE inspector spends:

  • At your site/premises
  • Writing letters and reports
  • Following up any subsequent work – like return visits, preparing and serving notices and checking if notices have been compiled, for example
  • Taking statements
  • Acquiring specialist assistance from the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) or other third parties
  • Gathering information/evidence
  • Assessing the findings included in inspection, investigation and enforcement conclusions
  • Recording conclusions learnt from inspection, investigation and enforcement information
  • Reviewing investigations to make sure appropriate action has been taken.

The HSE will invoice business duty holders every two months as fees mount up, and expect invoices to be paid within 30 days of their receipt.

To give you a rough idea, the average cost of an FFI invoice between February and March last year was £650.

How to avoid FFI

It’s simple really, stay on top of your Health & Safety obligations. If you comply with Health & Safety law, you won’t have to pay FFI.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by industry-leading Health & Safety experts Citation. From FFI and accident reporting, to fire safety and risk assessments – and everything in between, they know exactly what it takes to keep your business on the right side of the law.

More help on Health & Safety

You can find more help and advice on health & safety in these other ByteStart guides;

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