|New health and safety guide for small businesses|
|Thursday, 02 August 2012 12:15|
A bid to force small businesses to pay for their own health and safety inspections is being criticised by the Forum of Private Business, which has published a Health and Safety Guide to help negotiate the minefield of regulations.
Under the Fee for Intervention proposals, which are set to come into force October 2012, firms deemed to be in "material breach" of health and safety regulations by the Health and Safety Executive would be forced to pay inspectors' hourly rates from the moment the inspection begins – regardless of when a breach is detected.
Forum members are concerned this would be unfair, and the HSE's drive to recover costs could lead to a heavy-handed approach and inconsistency from individual inspectors over what constitutes a breach in the first place.
"Businesses that deliberately flout health and safety rules should be brought to task but this is not how the vast majority operate – clearly it is not in their best interests to allow lax health and safety procedures to exist. Our members want help, guidance and support, which is what our Health and Safety Guide provides, not ever more threats of financial penalties," said the Forum's chief executive, Phil Orford.
He added: "The delicate balance of trust between small businesses and regulators, which has shown tentative signs of improving recently, could be further complicated by what subjectively constitutes a 'material breach' according to different inspectors, creating, in all likelihood, a postcode lottery for businesses concerning health and safety compliance and enforcement.
"We want every government department to understand the significant financial demands on business at present, in this case from consultants and the HSE itself. There needs to be greater understanding shown by enforcement officers that firms face a number of inspections from multiple agencies across all aspects of their business."
The initial consultation into the Fee for Intervention proposals took place in October 2011. Following continued lobbying by the forum, which last week submitted its concerns to a House of Lords committee tasked with scrutinising the plans and they will now be reviewed.
The Forum is putting forward evidence showing that business owners have serious doubts about the proposed system of charges. They are also calling for significant measures to ease health and safety red tape.
The business support organisation has also created a step-by-step Health and Safety Guide which gives business owners the peace of mind that they are legally compliant and helps them provide a safe working environment for their employees and customers. It is contained within the forum's practical health and safety package, and comes complete with sample health and safety policy templates.
To find out more about the Forum of Private Business visit fpb.org or call 0845 130 1722.