In July HSE ran a consultation on health and safety enforcement allocation with a view to how it shares its enforcement role with local authorities EHO’s (environmental health officers).
A number of options were on the table ranging from completely absorbing the LAs’ regulatory powers for health and safety to allocating them greater duties. It should be remembered that HSE no longer has the resources to directly support the LA’s and that a strange situation has occurred for some clients where one site could be under LA enforcement which has no FFI and another very similar site comes under HSE and is liable to its FFI costs of £124 per hour – hardly fair and equitable!
HSE will always have its place in setting policies and drafting legislation but LA’s play a major part in health and safety enforcement for smaller businesses, from hairdressers all the way up to large vehicle maintenance depots with a diverse range of risk. Their role of the LA’s (EHO), as defined in the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 , is to regulate the retail, leisure and service-based sectors with HSE covering pretty much everything else.
However, the government has slashed LA budgets and one of the departments that took the biggest hit was health and safety enforcement leading to a significant reduction in the number of safety inspections conducted. In addition, staff training and the support on offer from HSE to inspectors is not what it once was and money continues to be tight and budgets squeezed. This has led to further and harsher enforcement by HSE under its fee-for-intervention scheme which allows it to charge for its inspectors’ time and is currently worth several million pounds in income each year (see our post on how prosecutions have trebled here).
The likely outcome? We think HSE will start to take over more and more of the current enforcement territory of the EHO’s leading to many more businesses who are currently out of scope as far as FFI is concerned coming into contact with HSE and its systems of fee’s and fines.
The full findings of the review will be handed to the HSE board in 2017and, once plans are agreed, legislation will have to be amended.