The Government believes that it is reasonable that businesses that are found to be in serious breach of health and safety law should bear the related costs incurred by the regulator in helping them put things right – instead of the taxpayer.

A cost recovery principle will provide a deterrent to those who would otherwise fail to meet their obligations and a level playing field for those who do.

It is proposed that HSE will recover all of the costs of an inspection/investigation at which a serious, material breach in standards is seen and a requirement to rectify is formally made, together with the cost of any follow-up work

The first detailed look at how this new system will operate for recovering costs has been published. The HSE has opened a three-month consultation. The new scheme could apply from as early as April 2012. The deadline for consultation responses is 14 October 2011.

Gordon MacDonald, HSE’s Programme Director, said, The Government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right – and not the public purse. These proposals provide a further incentive for people to operate within the law, levelling the playing field between those who comply and those who don’t. Compliant firms will not pay a penny in intervention fees. HSE already recovers its costs in a range of industries and we have considerable experience of making these schemes work. We want to hear from as many people as possible about how we plan to operate the scheme, to help make its introduction as successful as possible.”

Although the changes put no new health and safety duties on businesses, they do place for the first time a duty on HSE to recover the costs of their interventions in certain circumstances. Costs would be recovered, if during an inspection or investigation a material breach – a failure to adhere to health and safety law identified by an inspector as requiring formal action – is discovered. Fees would apply up to the point where HSE’s intervention in supporting businesses in putting matters right has concluded.

Law-abiding businesses will be free from costs and not have to pay a penny.

Under the proposals, HSE will recover costs at current estimates of £133 per hour. Costs of any specialist support needed by HSE would also be passed on. Invoices will need to be paid in 30 days.