HSE Fee For Intervention – How to safeguard your business, an Interview with Michael Ellerby, Director of LRB Consulting Limited
An interview with Health and Safety Consultant Michael Ellerby
Continuing our series of industry expert interviews we are joined by Michael Ellerby of LRB Consulting. Michael has many years of experience in the health and safety industry working in the UK, the US and the Middle East. Even with his extensive knowledge he still feels that his work is a collaborative effort, not just with his team of colleagues but also with the committed EHS professionals that he encounters in his work. Michael is a Chartered Safety Practitioner and is listed on the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register – OSHCR.
Health and Safety Overview
Michael is encouraged by the excellent safety efforts being implemented by some companies around the world. In the heavy industries particularly there has been much done to counter the inherent dangers, but he feels there is much more to achieve.
A recent blitz of construction sites by the HSE showed low levels of compliance with health and safety legislation. Of 1748 sites visited over 700 had safety failings with 313 sites receiving formal prohibition orders. Michael believes the HSE are beginning to focus not just on the overt safety failings such as trip hazards, unsafe working at height and so on but also, increasingly, on ‘health’ issues. By this, he means exposure to silica, asbestos, noise, and vibration that has long-term deleterious effects on workers and the public. As he points out the number of fatalities annually from diseases related to asbestos exposure is in the order of 4000 for the UK, a figure that dwarfs all other fatalities in the construction industry. The HSE are, in his opinion, targeting non-compliance in this area particularly.
Fee For Intervention
So what is the Fee for Intervention regime that the HSE implements? Well, at its most basic it is a way for the HSE to recoup some of its costs in ensuring industry compliance with the law. If a company is found to be in material breach of safety legislation, such as being the subject of a formal written enforcement, then they will be charged an hourly rate (£124 per hour) to cover the costs of making that inspection. FFI inspectors can arrive unannounced at any work site covered by the HSE which includes construction sites and manufacturing workplaces. They do also schedule visits but from the company’s point of view, it is essential to be prepared for either.
Where many of the failings occur is with smaller companies that perhaps do not have the resources of money or expertise to ensure their worksites are compliant. They are not the only ones of course as many large worksites do also fail safety inspections. Here we would like to provide some key information for companies to help them to safeguard their business against failing an inspection.
Who needs to be FFI compliant?
As we have mentioned all industries that are subject to HSE overview such as manufacturing and construction need to ensure that their worksites are compliant with legislation. In addition, individuals who contract construction companies to complete a project will be liable if they are found to be negligent or in contravention of the law. The relevant health and safety legislation can be found on the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk
Types of breaches
These are broken down into four main areas:
- Health risks – where failure to comply might lead to exposure to harmful substances such as dust, fume, and chemicals or energy such as noise or vibration
- Safety risks – where the potential effects are immediate due to traumatic injury, e.g., contact with moving machinery, falls from height or contact with vehicles
- Welfare breaches – requirements that are either part of the controls required for health risks, or are a basic right of people in a modern society
- Management of health and safety risks – requirements related to capability to manage health and safety risks to a sustainable, acceptable level
Many of these breaches can be addressed very easily, and this is something that Michael urges in his work with construction companies. He feels that many of the safety risks come from a basic lack of housekeeping on sites which lead to slips, trips, and falls. Most construction company owners will be aware of their obligations to protect workers working at height, but many can overlook the more obvious problems of a disorganised worksite. As he says, “If your worksite looks like an invite to a safety inspector then it probably is not compliant.” Taking time to view your site from an inspector’s point of view is a good starting point and can help to clarify the most obvious problems.
How to prepare for an inspection
The recent emphasis by the HSE on health risks such as dust, noise, and vibration require a more systematic approach to compliance and Michael shared the advice he gives to companies he works with. Firstly, companies need to:
- Understand the risk factors – use the HSE website as a resource to understand the types of breaches inspectors are looking for; employ a professional to review your health and safety practices if you feel that you cannot do it yourself
- Assess the risk factors – you will need to undertake a risk assessment; every site is different and requires a detailed assessment including an understanding of the site history
- Identify the risk factors – a risk assessment should help to identify and itemise the hazards of the site; it is handy to check back on over time to ensure they are still being addressed
- Address the risk factors – each individual risk or hazard must be addressed and, as best as possible, be prevented from causing harm or injury to workers and public; appropriate actions taken should be noted down to show inspectors
Michael feels that many companies do a lot of good work in being health and safety compliant, but it is important that they do ‘walk the talk.’ If you have identified hazards and outlined how to address them, then you must make sure that you apply this knowledge. He is saddened to find companies that have identified asbestos dangers on a site but have not then communicated this danger to all of their staff or contractors.
Being compliant is something that takes place every working day. Instilling a culture of health and safety rather than approaching it as a box ticking exercise is an essential attitudinal shift for companies. This may be the difference between a clean bill of health and a written order enforcement when the inspectors do visit.
Take time to educate yourself or your management in the legislation. If you require help, then do use the HSE website as a resource or contact them for further information. Alternatively, you can contact LRB Consulting to bring your company to compliance.
If you require assistance with contractor or staff training Induction Manager’s software solution will ensure you have a streamlined, simple solution to keeping your site safe!