The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has launched its overhauled procedure for challenging Fee For Intervention (FFI) bills, after respondents to a consultation backed the regulator’s proposals to create an independent panel that will assess written evidence when there is a dispute over a notification of contravention (NoC).
The new process, which came into force on 1st September 2017, will require the HSE to disclose information to complainants about how inspectors decided that the organisation was in “material breach” of the law – the trigger for a NoC. The panel will decide most disputes by examining written evidence, though it has the discretion to call a “meeting” with the duty holder and the HSE.
However, these meetings can only be held if both parties agree, and witnesses cannot be called or questioned. Decisions will be reached by a simple majority verdict. The HSE also said that it planned to set up a separate streamlined disputes process for cases where the FFI bills are small, or there is no disputes about the material breach; for instance, if the duty holder is querying the number of hours billed by the HSE.
However, a HSE spokesperson later indicated that the regulator will monitor the new system for a year before considering whether to introduce this second tier to the process.
The HSE has also said that it has no plans to publish information on the number of FFI disputes referred to the panel or their outcome. Any organisation seeking this information would have to submit a Freedom of Information request.
The HSE’s plan was set out in a consultation which ran from six weeks until 2nd June 2017. It proposed that a lawyer and two others with “practical experience” of health and safety management would sit on the adjudication panel.
Source: Health & Safety at Work Magazine – October 2017 Issue
Image: Adobe Photo