The HSE will investigate introducing a fully chargeable inspection service

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Hard HatThe HSE is to investigate charging for inspections and advice following approval from the government in its response to the triennial review.

The executive has been tasked with researching a “fully chargeable inspection service” for businesses with mature health and safety arrangements as part of a range of initiatives to commercialise its activities sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In its formal response on the 26th June to the review by former EEF chief executive Martin Temple, the DWP says it accepts the review’s recommendations for the HSE’s commercialisation, including consultancy with overseas regulators, increasing revenue from its research arm Health and Safety Laboratory and charging for advice on planning applications near hazardous installations.

The response reports that a steering group led by HSE chair Judith Hackitt and including HSE board members and Martin Temple, has been set up to consider HSE’s commercial options.

Temple was commissioned by the government to report on HSE’s fitness and functions as part of a cycle of three-yearly reviews of public bodies and reported in January. Though he recommended a charging scheme for inspections in his January review, he said the Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme which bills organisations for advice to remedy material breaches, was widely misunderstood as a penalty system and should be reformed. In the DWP’s response, health and safety minister Mike Penning says the government remains committed to the principle of FFI, but he has asked HSE to set up an independent review panel to consider its impact on relationships with business, which will report to him in July.

The HSE has also recently changed the system for contesting FFI charges so it involves an outside adjudicator at the first appeal, in line with Temple’s recommendation.

“We welcome the establishment of the review panel to consider the operation of FFI and its impact on the relationship between HSE and business,” said Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy for the EEF. “What we find less satisfactory is that the formal terms of reference for the panel have not been previously made available publicly, nor has there been a public call for evidence inviting stakeholder views.”

Temple also called for a review of the remit and make-up of the HSE’s executive board — formerly the Health and Safety Commission — to check it had the right skills mix. The government says it accepts the recommendation and has created a new skills matrix for board members, but rejects the suggestion that the number of board appointments made in consultation with unions and employers’ organisations should be reduced, altering the traditional tripartite nature.

In response to Temple’s suggestion that the HSE should have a new performance framework with measures for cost effectiveness of its services compared with other regulators, the government says the executive will implement a new framework in September. The government has not accepted the triennial review’s suggested target for HSE to conclude 95% of non-fatal accident investigations  within 12 months of the incident.

Other recommendations accepted by the DWP include reviews of the HSE’s working arrangements with the Environment Agency and the Office of Rail Regulation.