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practicable. The next step should be to hire a decent consultant, one who is well established, OSHCR registered, and who offers current clients as references. Most importantly, they should have knowledge of your specific industry.

From the moment HSE arrives and determines there is a material breach, the meter is running and continues to count up as long as an HSE representative is onsite. Don’t panic if the inspector has to go home for a few hours rest, the counter stops when they leave site, and will restart when they ‘clock in’ at the next visit. The bill only increases when someone from HSE is physically onsite.

The Independent FFI Review Panel found that this system is effective in recovering costs. However, there are issues surrounding FFI and its fairness and effectiveness as a deterrent. In the grand scheme of things, the amount charged to the most serious offenders in larger companies is only a very small proportion of the cost involved in a serious breach, so its effect in larger cases could be argued to be minimal. In one case heard recently, the direct costs of an injured person’s wage, legal representation, lost time, fines and fees etc. was in excess of £290,000, where the FFI value was below £5,000. Clearly, the FFI fee in this case was a drop in the ocean and

wouldn’t have served as a deterrent, but rather – as it was originally intended – to offset the HSE’s costs.

Where the FFI does make a larger impact is in the SME market place where the £124 per hour charged can soon surpass the daily earnings of the organisation. It seems the lower the turnover, the more effect the charge has on the business owner. These are the same types of companies who cannot afford a full time H&S resource and often don’t have contact with competent external help and advice.

For a small business owner, in the event of an HSE visit resulting in them issuing a written notice, the worst thing you can do is make a knee jerk reaction and hire an expensive lawyer or barrister to defend you. Your first action should be to talk (not shout) with the inspector, and ask them what to do. After all, these professionals have been in the business for a while and more often than not do know what they are talking about. Plus, you are already paying for their time so why not glean some benefit from it? Their advice should be taken as it is given and acted upon as soon as

Many generalist consultants can help you get off the starting blocks with a library of generic templates that may not reflect your business and will not help your cause in the long run. Or, when you get to court, you may end up throwing out everything they did for you, and have to find a more competent person – resulting in paying another fee for the privilege, so choose external help wisely.

Those consultants with an insight into your business will be able to accelerate your income at the same time as providing compliance by helping you to avoid further pitfalls and better manage potential costs.

The first port of call to find a suitable consultant or health and safety provider should be the OSHCR register which is free to search, or you could contact Hosking Associates. We don’t claim to be experts in every field – however, we have access to a vast number of specialists and if you have an issue in an industry we have little direct experience in, an associate who has the necessary industry knowledge will be found for you.


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